Tools Used to Diagnose Heart Disease

By: Alere Staff

Heart disease is the most common cause of death for men and women in America.1 Leading medical professionals agree that the key to lowering this frightening trend is early detection and treatment. Your doctor has many valuable diagnostic tools available to use when searching for this deadly disease but the most important part in diagnosis starts with you.

Talking with your doctor about your risk is the first step you can take to not be one of the many who die each year from this disease. Taking steps to reduce your risk by following the advice of your doctor is the critical next step. Below are some of the more common tools for the detection of heart disease.

  • Complete Physical Exam by your Doctor
    • Visiting your doctor even though you feel healthy may seem silly, but it provides you with opportunities to speak with a medical professional and get an assessment of your overall health. The more chances you give yourself the more likely you will catch the early signs of serious conditions like heart disease. Make sure that you are honest with your doctor about any questions they have for you. Doing so will help them to understand more about the way you live and determine possible risks.2 Getting a health screening when you visit your doctor could be one of the easiest but most overlooked steps in lowering your chances of developing serious heart problems.
  • Blood Tests
    • Blood tests are a very common tool used by your doctor to find out more about your health. Your doctor may have blood drawn when you visit or give you a prescription to get blood drawn at a lab. Comparing the results of previous blood tests is an important part of detecting small changes in your health so be sure not to skip this step.3
  • Chest X-ray
    • Completing a chest X-ray can help your doctor find out more information about your heart’s health. Just as our outer appearance changes as we grow and age, so does everything else beneath our skin. An X-ray shows these inner changes and, in the hands of your doctor, can be another important tool in better understanding your overall health.3
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
    • This tool is a valuable way your doctor can look at the electrical activity of your heart and quickly see lots of important information. The wires are connected to sticky electrodes that stick to your skin in a pattern of places while the monitor reads your hearts electrical rhythm. Small changes in the way your heart's rhythm looks can help your doctor understand even more about your heart’s health.3
  • Echocardiogram (Echo)
    • Your doctor may order an echocardiogram (echo) to be done to see more about the way blood flows through your heart. This type of test is sometimes done at your doctor’s office or you may need to go to a diagnostic clinic.3 This test uses ultrasound like what is used to see an unborn baby but it is of your heart and provides valuable pictures and sounds for your doctor to learn more about your heart.
  • Stress Test
    • This test is a common test to see how your heart and blood vessels react to activity and movement. Many times the test starts with connecting some of the same wires like the ones used in an electrocardiogram (ECG) and then the technician may have you walk on a treadmill and measure your hearts response by monitoring your blood pressure, pulse and breathing.3
  • Cardiac Catheterization (Heart Cath)
    • Sometimes your doctor may recommend a cardiac catheterization (heart cath) to more accurately diagnose your heart condition. A heart cath is a procedure that is usually done at a hospital and will provide some of the most accurate information about your heart. To do this test a flexible tube that is called a catheter is inserted into your body through blood vessels in your arm, leg, or neck. The doctor uses special cameras outside your body and dye that is injected through the catheter during the test.3 Heart cath tests are most commonly done after several other tests to be absolutely certain of your heart condition.
  • Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Cardiac MRI)
    • Cardiac MRI is a cardiac imaging test that is usually performed in a diagnostic clinic. This test has some limits and some people cannot have this done because of their history. This test uses magnets, radio waves and special computers to create digital pictures of your heart.3 These images will provide important images that can help your doctor better understand your heart’s condition.

By reading this information to better understand these tools you are showing an important interest in your personal health. Take the next step in lowering your risk by visiting your doctor to have a complete physical exam and health screening. This will provide your doctor with the opportunity to better serve your health needs. You are the most important part of your health and you can chose to take a healthy step today.


  1. Heart Disease Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC. (2015, November 30). Retrieved from
  2. Heart Health Screenings. (2014, October 21). Retrieved from
  3. How Is Heart Disease Diagnosed? - NHLBI, NIH. (2015, August 8). Retrieved from