The ABCs of Heart Tests

CTs, MRIs, EKGs, ECGs and More

ABCs blogMRI? CT? ECG? What are all these tests and what does it all mean? Here’s a guide to the many different heart tests your doctor may order and what they’re designed to do.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A noninvasive test that uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to create detailed pictures of organs and structures inside your body. It can be used to examine your heart and blood vessels, and to identify areas of the brain affected by stroke. MRI is also sometimes called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging.

Reasons for the test:

  • Assess heart structure
  • Determine the health of the heart valves

CT scan

An X-ray imaging technique that uses a computer to produce cross-sectional images. Also referred to as cardiac computed tomography, computerized axial tomography or CAT scan, it can be used to examine the heart and blood vessels for problems. It is also used to identify the blood vessels in the brain affected by stroke.

Reasons for the test:

  • To assess the structure of the heart
  • To determine if blockages are present


Uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. This common test allows your doctor to see how your heart is beating and pumping blood. Your doctor can use the images from an echocardiogram to identify various abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves.

Reasons for the test:

  • Determine the cause of a heart murmur
  • Track heart valve disease
  • Assess the overall function of the heart

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Blueberries and heart health

blueberrie blogFall is the season for pumpkins, apples and … blueberries? While summer is long gone, there are plenty of reasons to keep these heart-healthy berries on the fall menu. In fact, blueberries and heart health go hand in hand.

Color me healthy

Blueberries contain high amounts of brightly colored pigments called anthocyanins, which deliver a number of benefits for heart health. While other berries such as strawberries and cranberries contain anthocyanins as well, blueberries contain an especially high amount. These powerhouse pigments may help to reduce blood pressure, lower “bad” cholesterol and keep arteries healthy. Eating berries has even been shown to decrease the risk of death from heart disease.

Lose the (oxidative) stress

Cell damage from oxidative stress can lead to a number of conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. Anthocyanins function as strong antioxidants; they can protect against damage to cells and DNA. The antioxidant compounds found in blueberries lower inflammation and decrease oxidative stress — both of which help to protect heart health.

The whole package

Why not just pop a pill to get your daily dose of anthocyanins? Well, blueberries offer a number of benefits apart from that one compound. They are low in calories, high in fiber and rich in a number of vitamins and minerals. Plus, different components found in blueberries may work in concert to help the body absorb and utilize all of the berry’s heart-healthy components.


Blueberry Apple Walnut Crisp

Even though it may be hard to find fresh blueberries now, frozen berries work well for baking and cooking — and are just as healthy as fresh! Reap the benefits of berries with this heart-healthy recipe:

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 large apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Whisk the brown sugar, flour, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add apples and blueberries; toss to coat. Place mixture in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish.
  3. For the topping, combine the walnuts, oats, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, flaxseed, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Add the canola oil and mix well.
  4. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit mixture. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden brown. If topping begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.

Emily_PhotoEmily Shoemaker, MPH, is a dietetic intern for Cardiovascular Medicine at Domino’s Farms. Emily received her Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.




Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at

Diabetes apps for your smartphone

Join us at the Diabetes Health Fair Nov. 8

AppsBlogImage.fwIn recognition of November’s World Diabetes Day, here are two smartphone diabetes apps designed to help you track, analyze and manage your numbers.

Diabetes: Glucose Buddy by

  • Features: This app helps manage diabetes by tracking glucose readings that are entered four times a day, along with food consumed, exercise and medication. There’s also an alarm that reminds you to take your glucose readings. You can even write notes to explain unusual circumstances, such as high-carbohydrate meals. Data can be uploaded to for a more detailed analysis.
  • Operating System: iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch
  • Cost: Free

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Easy and delicious pumpkin chili

chili_pumpkin_320x320If you love the taste of pumpkin, this unique twist on chili just might become a fall favorite. Pumpkin chili is easy, delicious and good for you. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Sue Ryskamp, who served it up at her monthly “Nutritious Is Delicious” food-tasting event to rave reviews, shares her recipe.


  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup canned organic pumpkin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 (14 oz) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28 oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes

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Atrial fibrillation triggers

Afib can be difficult to diagnose because of varying symptoms

99146355 450x320Atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the atria, or the upper chambers of the heart. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 2.7 million Americans are living with Afib.

Although many atrial fibrillation triggers are common, each person’s experience is unique. So, being aware of your condition, along with your ability to identify the triggers that can potentially cause an episode, are important in helping you control atrial fibrillation symptoms, which may include:

  • Fluttering, racing or pounding of the heart
  • Dizzy or lightheaded feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort

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TAVR patient gets back to enjoying life

Marilyn Reeve TAVR 320x320

TAVR patient Marilyn Reeve

Marilyn Reeve’s heart issues started with quadruple bypass surgery at age 59. Ten years later, she began having trouble walking short distances, needing to stop often to catch her breath. The diagnosis was aortic valve stenosis. Due to her health history, open-heart surgery was out of the question, according to her doctor. “She recommended I go to the University of Michigan to see if there was anything they could do for me,” Marilyn says.

Fortunately, Marilyn was a candidate for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a procedure for those who cannot tolerate open-heart surgery. Marilyn’s TAVR procedure was a success. “I had my procedure on a Friday and was home on Monday. It’s marvelous what they can do,” she says.

Today, at age 70, Marilyn is back to doing all her own yard work as well as other physical things she couldn’t have done two years ago. She credits the entire U-M TAVR team with helping her get her health back. “U-M is the best hospital ever,” she says. Continue reading