What is a stress test?
Also called an exercise stress test, this procedure shows how your heart functions during physical stress. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is hard at work and beating fast.
During an exercise stress test, you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while your provider at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates takes an electrocardiogram (EKG) test. The EKG provides valuable information about your heart rate while you exercise.
If an exercise stress test doesn’t provide enough information, the team at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates may take a nuclear stress test. This type of stress test involves injecting radioactive dye into your blood vessels. The dye shows up on an imaging machine, which helps assess your blood flow during rest and physical exertion.
Why do I need a stress test?
Your provider at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates may recommend a stress test if you experience signs and symptoms of certain heart problems, including:
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease develops when the arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to your heart (coronary arteries) become blocked or damaged. This usually happens when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside your arteries and restricts blood flow.
An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that happens when the electrical impulses that regulate your heart rhythm don’t work properly. This may cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or in an uncoordinated manner.
What should I expect from a stress test?
Before your stress test, the team at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates provides you with instructions on how to prepare. You may be asked to avoid consuming certain things before the test, like food, cigarettes, and caffeine.
During the stress test, your technician places sticky electrode patches on your chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes attach to an EKG machine, which records the electrical signals that regulate your heartbeats. They also measure your blood pressure with an arm cuff and may ask you to breathe into a tube to assess your breathing function.
The exercise test begins with slow movement and progressively becomes more challenging. You continue exercising until your heart reaches a target rate or your symptoms prevent you from finishing.
Stress tests typically involve about 15 minutes of exercise. Afterward, you can resume normal activities unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
To learn more about stress testing, call South Shore Cardiovascular Associates or book an appointment online today.