A stress test often is referred to as an exercise test because it’s performed while you are doing some sort of exercise. When you do aerobic exercise, your heart pumps faster and it’s in this time of stress that your doctor is most interested and is able to discern any problems you may be having that don’t even register when you’re at rest.
The most common forms of stress testing are done while you ride a stationary bike or run on a treadmill. During the exercise, as you slowly increase the pace, your doctor monitors your breathing, heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure, and exercise capacity. Before and after the exercise portion, very often an echocardiogram is performed to increase the diagnostic yield of the test.
Easy Real-Time Recordings
Before you begin exercising, a technician places electrodes on your body using sticky tape. These do not transmit electricity into your body, but instead are used to measure the electrical signals coming from your heart. You might have electrodes paced on your chest, arms and legs to monitor your heart.
The speed or incline of the exercise equipment you’re using is increased slowly as the test progresses. The test is usually completed when you can no longer comfortably continue. You can always stop the test if you feel ill or just can’t finish. Occasionally a stress test will be stopped early because of:
Once the test is completed you will have a chance to recover while still being monitored. Once your vital signs return to normal you can leave the test area and resume your normal activities with no restrictions.
Why Stress Your Heart?
A stress test is a reliable way to find out what is going on with your heart condition. Your cardiologist often can pinpoint a diagnosis from a stress test when he suspects you might have:
- Arrhythmias, which are heart rhythm problems that prevent your heart from pulsating appropriately. When you have arrhythmia, your heart beats too fast, too slow or irregularly during the stress test.
- Coronary artery disease, or CAD, which occurs when your coronary arteries become diseased or damaged. The coronary arteries are the large blood vessel that supply your heart with oxygen, nutrients and blood. When it becomes clogged, it leads to a host of complications. Cholesterol and other plaque often build up in your coronary artery and cause you to do poorly on a stress test.
- Conditioning and Cardiovascular Health A stress test helps determine your physiologic age, which is just as important as your chronologic age in determining your prognosis and components of your treatment plan. In addition, anyone with cardiovascular risk factors should undergo stress testing prior to starting an exercise regimen to determine safe goals/boundaries.
- Follow Up. A stress test also can be useful to monitor your progress while you’re receiving treatment for a heart condition or following surgery. Your doctor can gather useful information while monitoring your exercise so closely. In a short period of time, he can get a clear reading of your functional capacity and cardiovascular conditioning.
If the regular stress test with the electrodes doesn’t produce sufficient information for your doctor to make a diagnosis, he may step it up by including imaging in the process. A nuclear stress test, also called a thallium stress test, for example, involves injecting a radioactive dye into your bloodstream after you’ve stimulated your heart with the exercise. An x-ray designed to highlight the dye is then taken to present a clearer picture of your heart’s condition.
Similarly, a stress echocardiogram relies on ultrasound to gather information after you’ve reached a peak performance state. Stress tests and imaging stress enhancements often are needed to diagnose heart trouble and identify other symptoms you may not even be aware of, such as:
- Valvular heart disease, which occurs when one or more of the four ventricles that deliver blood to and from your heart is damaged
- Pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in your lungs and the arteries on the right side of your heart
- Masked hypertension, when your blood pressure is normal when you’re in the doctor’s office, but spikes when you do normal activities outside the office
Remember that even if you have a normal stress test reading, further tests and monitoring may be required to ensure you’re receiving the best care and treatment for any form of heart disease. If you’re having symptoms a stress test is a crucial way to help determine the cause, and make sure you aren’t suffering from a serious cardiac condition. To schedule a stress test at NYC Cardiology, Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates contact us today.
Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (Cardiologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066