Q. What does a heart screening entail?

A. The heart screening sessions involve a 15 minute test (approximately) which is quick and painless and able to detect any heart abnormalities. The doctors carrying out the tests will then review the results and let you know if you need a further test. 

You will undergo an ECG (Echocardiogram) which looks at the electrical conduction pathways around the heart. Small stickers known as electrodes are placed on the client’s chest and the wires connect to an ECG machine whilst they lie still.

A printout of the heart’s electrical activity is obtained for evaluation by the cardiologist. From the information provided, measurements are taken which give a guide to muscle thickness and size of the chambers of the heart.

After your ECG

A qualified Cardiologist will read your ECG report and determine if any abnormalities are present.

If not     - happily the screening process will be over for you.

If so       - your NHS GP will be informed by letter for referral into the NHS. You will also have the option of booking a private detailed Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) with one of the iDiagnostic Cardiologists. As a Welsh Hearts patient, if the booking is made within 7 days, it will be at a discounted rate of £300.

Q. What age is screening open to?

A. Our heart screening initiative is open to everyone aged 8-45 years old, usually screened over separate days, with one session open to 8-17 year olds, and a session open to 18-45 year olds. The screening sessions are suitable for persons who have not previously had an electrocardiogram and are otherwise fit and healthy. 

Q. Why is the screening limited to 8-45 years olds?

A. 8 is the absolute minimum age we can screen due to the fact that at this age, the heart is still developing and we want to ensure that we get an accurate reading. It is possible to be screened over the age of 45, but this is the age group that is most vulnerable to heart conditions that can cause a cardiac arrest. These conditions can be picked up by our screening. People over the age of 45 are more likely to suffer from conditions which cannot be detected by a heart screening, such as a heart attack. This means that a heart screening could come back completely normal for some heart conditions, but it unfortunately can't rule out the possibility of a heart attack.

Q. So what can I do if I'm over 45 and am worried about my heart health?

A. There isn't really a test that can determine the likelihood of a heart attack, and many lifestyle choices can factor in, which means there are things you can do to help keep your heart healthy. We would recommend that you maintain a healthy diet, limit alcohol consumption and keep active as much as you can. If you have any concerns, or if you have a family history of heart problems, your GP may be able to offer you other tests, such as blood pressure tests to monitor your heart health.

An ECG explained 

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a simple test that can be used to check your heart's rhythm and electrical activity.

Sensors attached to the skin are used to detect the electrical signals produced by your heart each time it beats. ECG These signals are recorded by a machine and are looked at by a doctor to see if they're unusual.

An ECG may be requested by a heart specialist (cardiologist) or any doctor who thinks you might have a problem with your heart, including your GP.

The test can be carried out by a specially trained healthcare professional at a hospital, a clinic or at your GP surgery.

Despite having a similar name, an ECG isn't the same as an echocardiogram, which is a scan of the heart.

When an ECG is used

An ECG is often used alongside other tests to help diagnose and monitor conditions affecting the heart.

It can be used to investigate symptoms of a possible heart problem, such as chest pain, palpitations (suddenly noticeable heartbeats), dizziness and shortness of breath.

An ECG can help detect:

arrhythmias – where the heart beats too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly coronary heart disease – where the heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances heart attacks – where the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked cardiomyopathy – where the heart walls become thickened or enlarged A series of ECGs can also be taken over time to monitor a person already diagnosed with a heart condition or taking medication known to potentially affect the heart.

How an ECG is carried out

There are several different ways an ECG can be carried out. Generally, the test involves attaching a number of small, sticky sensors called electrodes to your arms, legs and chest. These are connected by wires to an ECG recording machine.

You don't need to do anything special to prepare for the test. You can eat and drink as normal beforehand.

Before the electrodes are attached, you'll usually need to remove your upper clothing, and your chest may need to be shaved or cleaned. Once the electrodes are in place, you may be offered a hospital gown to cover yourself.

The test itself usually only lasts a few minutes, and you should be able to go home soon afterwards or return to the ward if you're already staying in hospital.

Types of ECG

There are 3 main types of ECG:

a resting ECG – carried out while you're lying down in a comfortable position a stress or exercise ECG – carried out while you're using an exercise bike or treadmill an ambulatory ECG – the electrodes are connected to a small portable machine worn at your waist so your heart can be monitored at home for 1 or more days The type of ECG you have will depend on your symptoms and the heart problem suspected.

For example, an exercise ECG may be recommended if your symptoms are triggered by physical activity, whereas an ambulatory ECG may be more suitable if your symptoms are unpredictable and occur in random, short episodes.

Getting your results

An ECG recording machine will usually show your heart rhythm and electrical activity as a graph displayed electronically or printed on paper.

For an ambulatory ECG, the ECG machine will store the information about your heart electronically, which can be accessed by a doctor when the test is complete.

You may not be able to get the results of your ECG immediately. The recordings may need to be looked at by a specialist doctor to see if there are signs of a potential problem. Other tests may also be needed before it's possible to tell you whether there's a problem.

You may need to visit the hospital, clinic or your GP a few days later to discuss your results with a doctor.

Are there any risks or side effects?

An ECG is a quick, safe and painless test. No electricity is put into your body while it's carried out.

There may be some slight discomfort when the electrodes are removed from your skin – similar to removing a sticking plaster – and some people may develop a mild rash where the electrodes were attached.

An exercise ECG is performed under controlled conditions. The person carrying out the test will carefully monitor you, and they’ll stop the test if you experience any symptoms or start to feel unwell.