It seems silly to ask someone to get a stress test and then tell them there’s nothing to stress about. But it’s true! We know that the mere idea of a cardiac test makes some patients go tense, but we believe with more information, you’ll find that the whole experience is far more positive than you might have imagined. Today we’re going to walk you through what to expect from your upcoming test, but first, you may wonder what this particular test is used for.
Simply put, a stress test is an examination that allows your cardiologist to measure how your heart responds to manufactured stressors in a contained environment. Generally, patients in their doctor’s office sit calmly in a quiet room, and it shows in the data collected on their hearts. However, your doctor also wants to see how your heart responds to stress. What’s happening in your body when you’re walking around the grocery store or climbing the stairs in your home? The best way to accurately measure stress on your heart when you’re active is by recreating activity in a clinical setting.
The stress test is fast and simple yet provides doctors with powerful insights into a patient’s heart health. Before the test begins, your doctor will ask you a series of questions to help determine how much exercise will be required to elicit the response they’re looking for. For example, if you exercise regularly, you will need to exercise relatively strenuously to stress your heart to the degree the doctors are testing for. On the other hand, if you’re not very active, a slow walk may be all that is required to provide results. Below are some of the things you can expect from your upcoming exam.
Electrodes and Wires
If you’ve ever seen an image of an athlete running on a treadmill with various wires and tubes coming off of them, you have an idea of what you’re about to get yourself into. When you arrive at your test, you’ll be hooked up to a blood pressure monitor and several electrodes will be stuck to your arms, legs, and chest. The electrodes track your heart’s activity and send the data back to a computer.
The Exercise Part
Once hooked up to the machines, you’ll be asked to exercise (likely on a treadmill or stationary bike). You’ll start slowly and increase the intensity of your workout until your heart rate reaches a target level or until you have symptoms. This is the point at which your physical ability will determine the intensity of your test.
When You Can’t Exercise
If you are unable to exercise for any reason, you may be asked to participate in a nuclear stress test. A drug is administered intravenously during this test, which artificially raises your heart rate to mimic exercise. Some patients report feeling short of breath during this process, just as they would if they were exercising. Your cardiologist can help you determine which type of test would be best for you.
After the exercise portion of the test, you may be asked to relax for a few minutes while still hooked up to all the testing equipment. This monitored recovery time allows your cardiologist to watch your heart as it comes down from exertion and watch for issues as your heart returns to a state of rest.
After the test is complete, you’ll be free to go about your life as normal. There is no recovery time from a cardiac stress test. The results from your test will be sent to your doctor, who will determine the appropriate next steps.
Hopefully, you see there’s nothing stressful about this diagnostic test. On the contrary, it can help your doctor collect important data that will enable you to make wise decisions about your cardiovascular health. If you have questions about this or any other diagnostic test your cardiologist has ordered for you, we can help! Contact us today for more information.