Heart Tests Not for Low Risk People

Background: Men under 50 and women under 60 who have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, do not smoke and do not have diabetes are generally considered at low risk for heart disease.

Summary: It has been recommended that people at low risk for heart disease not have routine screening with a resting electrocardiogram (ECG), a treadmill test, or a CT scan for coronary calcium.

Rationale: These recommendations were made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force which "concluded that the potential harms of routine screening" for coronary heart disease "exceed the potential benefits" in people with a low risk of heart disease. The "harms" come from an excessive proportion of false positive results that lead to invasive procedures such as cardiac catheterization and angiography and to unnecessary treatment with medications.

Note: The Summary of Recommendations (below) from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is somewhat technical.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com