Should You Have a Stress Test?

When you have symptoms of a heart condition, it may be time to have an exercise stress test. Sometimes, certain heart irregularities aren’t fully apparent at your resting heart rate. A stress test elevates your heartbeat and tests blood flow under more extreme conditions.

It’s not a test you’ll have without a reason, but under certain circumstances a stress test can help diagnose a problem, and its severity, as well as aiding the development of treatment plans and monitoring their effectiveness.

Why stress tests are done

There are generally three common reasons for exercise stress tests, though your surgeon may also request a stress test to aid timing of a valve replacement procedure or to evaluate your need of a heart transplant. The more common reasons for stress testing are:

What to expect from a stress test

The measurement portion of your stress test takes about 15 minutes, but in total, your appointment will likely last about an hour. First, you’ll have a quick exam to observe respiration and heartbeat as you’re resting. You’ll be fitted with an arm cuff to measure blood pressure through the test, and you’ll have electrodes placed on your chest to monitor your heart. You may also need to breathe into a tube to evaluate active respiration.

In some cases, your stress test may be accompanied by imaging, such as an echocardiogram or nuclear stress tests, but these aren’t always performed.

For those who can’t exercise, their heart rate is boosted artificially using medications delivered intravenously. Most patients start the exercise portion of the test slowly, on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. The intensity of the exercise increases, and your heart’s performance gets measured. The intensity continues to climb until you reach a target heart rate or until you develop symptoms. These can include:

What a stress test result shows

A cardiac stress test won’t conclusively confirm or rule out a heart condition on its own. It’s possible to have a normal stress test result, yet still have coronary artery blockages. The stress test is only one part of the diagnostic process. Further testing could follow both normal and abnormal results from a cardiac stress test.

In most cases, if you’re otherwise healthy with no pronounced risks of cardiac issues, a stress test isn’t likely. Unless, for instance, you’re about to start an intense, new activity that’s outside your normal level of exercise.

When you do carry cardiac risk factors, or if your medical caregiver recommends a cardiac stress test, contact the most convenient location of Jacinto Medical Group. They’re stress test specialists and able to guide you safely through the procedure. Call today.

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