Heart Disease and The Doctor's Exam

Some standard and simple exams can give your doctor the first clues on whether you have heart disease.

During your visit, your doctor will:

  • Listen to your heart
  • Take your heart rate
  • Check your blood pressure

Listening to Your Heart

Your doctor will use a stethoscope to hear your heartbeat. The closing of your heart's valves makes a "lub dub" noise. The doctor can check your heart and valve health and hear your heart's rate and rhythm by listening to those sounds.

Checking Your Heart Rate

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They’ll feel your pulse to check your heart's rate and rhythm. Each pulse matches with a heartbeat that pumps blood into your arteries. The force of the pulse also helps the doctor know the strength of blood flow to different areas of your body.

You can tell how fast your heart is beating by feeling your pulse. Your heart rate is the number of beats in 1 minute.

To measure your pulse, all you need is a watch with a second hand.

  • Place your index and middle finger of your hand on the inner wrist of the other arm, just below the base of the thumb. You should feel a tapping or pulsing against your fingers.
  • Count the number of taps you feel in 10 seconds.
  • Multiply that number by 6 to find out your heart rate for 1 minute.

This can also tell you if your heart rhythm is regular.

Checking Your Blood Pressure

That’s the force or pressure your heart needs to pump blood around your body. It’s recorded as two measurements:

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Systolic blood pressure: The pressure in your arteries when the heart squeezes (the higher number)

Diastolic blood pressure: The pressure in your arteries when the heart relaxes between squeezes (the lower number)

Normal blood pressure for an adult, at rest, is less than 120 over less than 80. Blood pressure may go up or down depending on your:

  • Heart condition
  • Emotions
  • Activity
  • Medicines

One high reading doesn’t mean you have high blood pressure. It must be checked at different times while resting to find out your true result.

Checking Your Heart by a Physical Exam

Your doctor can also learn about your heart's health by looking at other parts of your body, such as your eyes, arms, legs, and skin. They’ll check each for good color. This will let them know if your body is getting enough blood.

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They’ll also check for swelling. If there is any, it could mean that your heart isn’t pumping well.

Checking Your Heart Through Blood Tests

Your doctor may recommend a blood test to check your cholesterol and other things that may signal heart disease.

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