What Is a Stress Test?

Everyone knows it is hard to avoid being stressed in today's world, but most people don't know that they can actually get a test done to confirm how capable their heart is when it comes to dealing with stress. What is a stress test? Most people ask the question these days. Your doctor performs this test to find out more about your cardiovascular health. It actually tells the capacity of your heart to take the stress and still perform in a healthy way. Yes, there's a limit to the stress your heart can handle, and when it crosses the limit, you will notice issues, such as abnormal rhythm and more. What is a stress testand why do you need it? Let's find out the answer here.

What Is a Stress Test?

Many physicians referred to stress test as an exercise stress test. They perform this test to get more info about how your heart performs during physical activity. The more you exercise, the more important it becomes for your heart to pump blood faster. This test can also go a long way in highlighting certain cardiovascular problems that are hard to identify otherwise.

Your doctor may ask for a stress test if they suspect a coronary artery disease or notice irregular heart rhythm. Sometimes, you may have to go for an exercise test when you have already developed a heart condition.

Why Do You Need a Stress Test?

People have many questions about a stress test. How does your doctor perform it? How long does a stress test take? And of course, why do you actually need a stress test? Here are some specific reasons why your doctor asks you to go for an exercise stress test:

  • The test tells your doctor if your heart's getting enough blood during increased levels of activity.
  • The test helps your doctor to evaluate how your heart is responding to medications used for ischemia or angina.
  • The test highlights any cardiovascular diseases, including a coronary heart disease.
  • The test confirms if the procedures used to improve blood flow within your heart are proving effective or not.
  • The test also helps find out how the valves of your heart are functioning.
  • The test makes it possible to develop a safe and effective exercise program.

How to Prepare for a Stress Test?

You can do the following before you go for the stress test:

  • You should stop eating anything at least four hours before your test – you can however drink water.
  • You should stop drinking caffeinated drink at least 12 hours before your test.
  • You should avoid taking specific heart medications on the test day, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise. Some of these medications include Isosorbide mononitrate, Isosorbide dinitrate, and Nitroglycerin. Be sure to consult your doctor before you stop taking these drugs.
  • Don’t forget your inhaler if you use one – you may need it during the test.
  • You should wear comfortable clothes and soft-soled shoes.

How Is a Stress Test Done?

The first question people ask is, "What is a stress test?" The other common question is about how your doctor performs it. It is basically a two-step procedure and starts with an EKG while you haven't yet started any physical activity. Here's more about it:

Your doctor will attach electrodes or sticky patches to your chest and shoulders. These patches record your electrocardiogram when your doctor performs the echocardiography test. It is followed by ten minutes of walking a treadmill – you will start slowly and increase your speed gradually. They will repeat the EKG once you have reached 85% of your maximum heart rate. Overall, it takes about 30 minutes to get the test done. They may continue to take measurements after the test is finished – you will be asked to stand still for a few seconds while they take measurements and notice your heart rate and breathing pattern.

Your doctor will keep you under observation while you're recovering from the physical activity. There's usually no need to do the second step if your doctor has not ordered a Nuclear Medicine Stress test that involve taking dye for a resting scan.

Are There any Risks with a Stress Test?

After getting the answer to the question, "What is a stress test?" many people want to know if it is safe to go for one such test. The simple answer is that the exercise stress is usually quite safe and you don't have to deal with any complications because you're under strict observation. Still, you may need to know about certain complications that may arise in some cases. For instance:

  • Your blood pressure may drop quickly while you're still involved in a physical activity or have just finished it. This may make you feel a bit dizzy – you may even faint if it falls quickly.
  • You may notice irregular heartbeats during the test. This is usually the outcome of the exercise you're performing. The issue resolves after you've stopped exercising.
  • You may already have a chronic heart condition, so in rare cases, you may have to deal with a myocardial infarction.

To avoid any complications, it is important that you work with an experienced healthcare provider throughout the test.

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