Heart Health Tests for Diabetes Patients

doctor with checklistIf you have diabetes, you are at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease. That's why your health care provider may recommend one or more of the following tests to check your heart health. 

Non-Invasive Tests

Non-invasive tests do not involve inserting instruments or fluids in the body. They include:

  • Electrocardiogram ("EKG" or "ECG"): This test measures the electrical activity of the heart. The heart beats because an electrical impulse (or "wave") travels through it. This wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart into the arteries. Learn more about electrocardiograms.
  • Echocardiogram ("echo"): This safe and painless ultrasound test uses sound waves to examine the heart's structure and motion. During this test, the patient lies still while a technician moves a device over the chest. The device emits a silent sound wave that bounces off the heart, creating images of its chambers and valves. The echo can tell the doctor how thick the heart muscle is and how well the heart pumps. Learn more about echocardiograms.
  • Exercise stress test ("treadmill test" or "exercise test"): This type of test helps determine how well your heart handles work. As your body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so your heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart. It also helps doctors know the kind and level of physical activity appropriate for a patient. Learn more about exercise stress tests.

Invasive Tests

Invasive tests require inserting instruments or fluids like injectable dyes into the body. Such tests to check cardiovascular health include:

  • Thallium stress test: A type of nuclear scanning test or myocardial perfusion imaging test, the thallium stress test shows how well blood flows to the heart muscle. It's usually done in conjunction with an exercise stress test on a treadmill or bicycle. Learn more about thallium stress tests.
  • Coronary angiogram: This type of test involves injecting a dye visible by X-ray into the bloodstream, making it an invasive test. X-ray pictures are then taken and studied to see if the arteries are damaged. Coronary arteriography is used to help doctors evaluate the number and severity of blockages in arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. Learn more about coronary angiograms (PDF).