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Diagnosis of coronary heart disease

3-minute read

If coronary heart disease is being considered as a possibility, your doctor will ask about your medical and family history, check your blood pressure and do a blood test to assess your cholesterol level.

They will also ask about your lifestyle, how much exercise you do and whether you smoke. All these factors will be considered as part of the diagnosis.

Many people don't know they have coronary heart disease (CHD) until they have angina or a heart attack.

However, if your doctor thinks you are at risk of developing CHD, they may arrange a number of tests (see below) to check your heart health and determine what treatments you may need.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that if you are concerned about cardiovascular disease but have no symptoms talk to your doctor or specialist about whether the benefits will outweigh the risks involved with specific testing for heart disease or stroke. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or 'stress test'

During an ECG test, electrical leads are placed on your chest, arms and legs. These leads detect small electrical signals and produce a tracing on graph paper that illustrates the electrical impulses travelling through the heart muscle. Sometimes, an additional ECG test is done while you are exercising on an exercise bike or treadmill. This is known as an exercise stress test, also referred to as a 'stress test'.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses ultrasound waves to produce a picture of your heart as it beats. This lets your doctor see the structure of your heart and how well it is working.

An echocardiogram can also be done straight after exercising, referred to as a 'stress echocardiogram'.

Angiogram

This is a special x-ray that shows whether or not your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Under a local anaesthetic, a small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your arm or groin and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries and x-rays are taken. The x-rays give detailed information about the condition of these arteries.

Your doctor may also arrange blood tests, blood pressure monitoring or other imaging tests to gain a clearer picture of your heart.

For more information you can go to Heart Foundation website.

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Last reviewed: January 2020


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