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Important heart tests recommended by American Heart Association

One in three deaths in America are attributed to heart disease, making it the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. The variety of screenings available for heart disease have grown significantly in recent years, but many have not proven to be cost effective in preventing deaths from heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends, in the absence of risk factors:

1. Regular blood pressure checks for people over age 20, at every doctor‘s visit or at least once every two years. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause stroke, heart failure and heart attack. A normal reading for a healthy person is below 140/90 millimeters of mercury.

2. Cholesterol screening, or fasting lipoprotein profile, every five years for men under age 45 and women under age 50 who have no other risks for heart disease. This standard blood work can help detect problems in the arteries, including coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, by monitoring total cholesterol levels, levels of “lousy” LDL and “healthy” HDL cholesterol, and the level of fats called triglycerides.

3. An annual fasting blood sugar test for people who are overweight or obese. This monitors for the development of diabetes, which can increase your risk of heart disease. A level of blood sugar, or glucose, higher than 126 milligrams per deciliter signals a problem.