Heart Health Screenings and Tests

Getting screened is one of the most important steps you can take to manage your heart health – even if you think you’re healthy. Just a handful of simple, quick tests can help you determine whether you have any conditions that can affect your risk of heart disease, helping you take control of your health.

Where can you get tested?

You can have your heart health screened in many places. Visit your doctor's office. If you've been getting annual physicals, you may have already had some or all of the tests included in a screening so call first to check.

What tests should you get?

A basic heart disease screening to identify any risk factors will include a blood pressure check, plus a simple blood test to measure blood glucose and cholesterol. It may also include an obesity screeningand a review of your family health history.

  • Blood Glucose

    • Type of Test

      - Blood Test

    • When to Take Action

      - Random Blood Glucose level above 200mg/dL

      - Fasting Blood Glucose above 110mg/dL.

  • Blood Pressure
    • Type of Test

      - Blood Pressure Cuff

    • When to Take Action

      - Systolic more than 120

    • Cholesterol
      • Type of Test

        - Blood Test

      • When to Take Action

        - Total Cholesterol more than 200

        - HDL less than 50

        - LDL more than 130

        - Triglycerides more than 150

    • Obesity
      • Type of Test

        - BMI and Waist Circumference

      • When to Take Action

        - BMI between 25 and 30 – Overweight

        - BMI greater than 30 – Obese

        - Waist circumference greater than 35

    • Smoking
      • Type of Test

        - Self-report

      • When to Take Action

        - Current smoker

    • Family History
      • Type of Test

        - Self-report

      • When to Take Action

        - Natural brother or father diagnosed with heart disease before 55 years old OR natural sister or mother diagnosed with heart disease before 65 years old.

    • Age
      • Type of Test

        - Self-report

      • When to Take Action

        - Over 55 years of age.

    Blood Glucose

    A blood glucose test measures the amount of sugar (glucose) in a sample of blood. See your healthcare provider or visit your local clinic for a fasting blood glucose test. Keep in mind that you must not eat for at least 8 hours before the fasting blood glucose test.

    Preparing for the test:

    • A random glucose blood test can be done at any time of the day without fasting.
    • For a fasting glucose blood test, you should not eat or drink at least 8 hours before the test.

    Blood Pressure

    Blood pressure is the push made as your heart pumps blood through your body. It is measured by placing a cuff on your arm and pumping it with air to achieve a gentle squeeze, then release. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: your systolic pressure (the pressure as your heart contracts to push blood out) "over" your diastolic pressure (the pressure as your heart fills with blood).

    Preparing for the test:
    • Don’t drink coffee or smoke cigarettes at least 30 minutes before a reading.
    • Go to the bathroom before your reading. A full bladder can change your reading.
    • Wear short sleeves so that the cuff can be placed on your upper arm.
    • Sit quietly without moving, keep your feet flat on the ground and rest your arm on the table at the level of your heart.
    • If possible, get two readings 2 minutes apart and average the results.

    Cholesterol, Including Triglycerides

    A cholesterol blood test, also called a lipid profile, tells the types, amount and distribution of the various fats (lipids) found in your blood. This test will assess your total cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels, and triglycerides.

    Preparing for the test:

    • Do not eat or drink anything except water at least 12 hours before the blood test.
    • Your healthcare provider may ask that you stop taking certain drugs before the test. Never stop taking drugs without first talking to your provider

    Obesity Screening

    Too much body fat, or obesity, is a risk factor for heart disease. Body fat is measured in two ways:

    1. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of your weight relative to your height. The calculation helps to determine if you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat.

    2. Measuring your waist circumference is another way to find out if your weight puts you at risk for heart disease. A waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women is high, and a high waist measurement increases your risk for heart disease.

    To find your waist circumference now:
    Stand up straight with your feet together. Place a tape measure around your waist just above your belly button. Make sure the tape is snug but not too tight. Remember to breathe normally.

    Family Health History

    Family history strongly influences your risk of heart disease. Having a father or brother with heart disease before age 55, or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65, can contribute to your risk. Be sure to talk with family members before your heart screening so that you can answer any questions related to your family heart history, and always let your doctor know about your family history.

    After You Get Screened

    • Ask for your test results. Make sure you get a written record of all your numbers and know what they mean.
    • Review your results with your doctor. If your numbers show that you are at risk for heart disease, talk with your doctor to develop a plan to improve your heart health.


For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH