Stress Tests: What Can They Tell Us?
- Posted on: Jan 25 2022
Heart disease is very common in the U.S. If you are experiencing any symptoms or irregularities concerning your heart, it’s important to get in touch with a medical provider right away. The right doctor can determine whether you have cardiovascular disease or other underlying medical issues.
Addressing health concerns (particularly those having to do with your heart) can feel confusing and overwhelming. The best way to prepare is to educate yourself and know what to expect.
If your doctor suspects that you have an underlying heart condition, they might order several tests to determine the issue and how to address it. One common test that can help doctors determine whether your heart is operating normally is a stress test, otherwise known as an exercise stress test.
Understanding what a stress test is, why you might need it, and what you can learn from it can help put your mind at ease and help you feel more prepared.
What is a stress test?
A stress test tracks how your heart performs when it is under certain types of stress, like the kind your body experiences when exercising. When you perform intense physical activity, your heart has to pump harder and faster than normal, which can make heart disorders related to blood flow more apparent.
Typically, a stress test is performed in a hospital under medical supervision. Your doctor will ask you to exercise on a treadmill or a stationary bike while they monitor your breathing, heart rhythm, and blood pressure.
If you are physically unable to perform these exercises, a doctor may instead perform a chemical stress test, which involves administering a drug to simulate the effects of exercise.
During a stress test, your doctor will place tiny electrodes on your chest to connect you to an electrocardiogram (EKG) monitor and place a blood pressure cuff on your arm. The EKG and blood pressure machines will continuously monitor you as you increase your speed or intensity until reaching a target heart rate or are unable to continue.
While your doctor will monitor your heart rhythm and blood pressure, it is important you communicate any intense physical symptoms, such as:
- Severe chest pain
- Severe shortness of breath
If anything concerning occurs, you and your doctor can stop the test at any time.
Why do I need a stress test?
A doctor might conduct a stress test for many different reasons, such as patient symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or a rapid or irregular heartbeat. While the stress test alone won’t pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, it will confirm that the issue has to do with your heart.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with a heart condition, your doctor might also use a stress test to check how you respond to treatment and recover after surgery. The test will indicate if your heart is improving and help inform your treatment plan.
What are the results of a stress test?
A stress test can have one of two results: normal or abnormal. If your results are normal, that means your heart has no issue responding to physical exercise and shows no signs of blood flow problems. If so, you may not need further tests.
If your results are abnormal, it could indicate reduced blood flow to your heart, potentially due to underlying heart disease. Your doctor may recommend follow-up tests and procedures to determine what is causing the issue.
No matter the outcome, your results will provide your doctor with critical information so they can give you the care and treatment you need. Contact our office today.
Posted in: Heart Disease