Many people assume that serious and life-threatening events like heart attacks simply strike without warning. The signs were often there all along, but they just weren’t discovered.
As heart health experts, our team’s primary goal for patients of South Shore Cardiovascular Associates is to stay one step ahead of heart disease and prevent serious events like heart attacks, which occur every 40 seconds in the United States.
One of the most valuable weapons in our preventive heart disease arsenal is a stress test, which gives us a glimpse at how well your heart functions — not just when it’s at rest.
Putting your heart through the paces
One of our frontline tools for determining how well your heart is functioning is an echocardiogram (EKG), which measures the electrical activity of your heart. This test takes us mere minutes to administer, and you only need to lie or sit still.
While an EKG delivers valuable information, it’s only providing us with a snapshot of your heart’s electrical activity, a snapshot while the muscular organ is at relative rest.
With a stress test, we conduct the EKG while you’re moving and getting your heart rate up, typically on a treadmill or stationary bike. In addition to the EKG, we measure your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure during your stress test, giving us some very good data.
We want to note that if you have a physical issue that precludes you from getting on a treadmill or stationary bike, we can still conduct a stress test using medications that increase your heart rate.
Also, we can get an even more detailed picture of cardiovascular function if we inject a dye into your blood and follow it with advanced imaging — which is known as a nuclear stress test.
What a stress test can tell us
A stress test can help us identify several different issues, such as arrhythmia or coronary artery disease. The test can also help us determine why you might be feeling concerning symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
Preparing for a stress test
There isn’t much that you need to do to prepare for a stress test. We will discuss whether you should temporarily suspend medications if you're taking them. Other than that, we ask that you:
- Avoid caffeine beforehand
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
- Don’t apply any lotion on your body (it can interfere with the electrodes)
The stress test is harmless, although you might be slightly tired afterward. After gathering and analyzing the data, we sit down with you to review your results and next steps, if needed.
If you have more questions about stress testing, you can call one of our offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida, or book an appointment online.