Heart Health Tests for People with Diabetes

Video: What to know about diabetes and heart disease

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

Non-invasive tests

Non-invasive tests don't 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, you lie still while a technician moves a device over the chest. The device send out a silent sound wave that bounces off the heart, creating images of its chambers and valves. The echo can tell the health care professional 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 its workload. 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 that’s best for you. Learn more about exercise stress tests.

Invasive tests

Invasive tests require inserting instruments or fluids such as injectable dyes into the body. Tests to check heart health include:

  • Nuclear 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 with an exercise stress test on a treadmill or bicycle. Learn more about nuclear stress tests.

  • Coronary angiogram: This test involves injecting a dye visible by X-ray into the bloodstream. X-ray pictures are then taken and studied to see if the arteries are damaged. This test helps doctors evaluate the number and severity of blockages in arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. Learn more about coronary angiograms (PDF).