When you think of a stress test, what image comes to mind? You’re probably conjuring a vision of a world-class athlete running on a treadmill at high speeds while connected to any number of different tubes and wires. This is a common and potentially intimidating visual that may not tell the whole story when it comes to understanding this cardiac diagnostic tool.
The purpose of a stress test is to allow your cardiologist to get a good look at how your heart functions when it is under stress. Most often, when you’re sitting calmly in the doctor’s office, they aren’t getting the whole picture of your cardiac health. During the test, the technician will hook you up to an electrocardiogram (EKG) which monitors the electrical output of your heart and then track those measurements as you begin to exercise and your heart rate rises. The purpose is not to assess your athletic prowess, but to push your heart just a little farther than normal to see how it responds. But what is this test actually telling your cardiologist? Here’s a little bit of insight.

It Can Tell You What’s Happening In Your Heart Right Now
The very best this test can do is show your cardiologist exactly what is happening in your heart right at the moment of the test. This includes diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease which occurs when there is plaque buildup in arteries restricting blood flow and arrhythmias, which are irregular heart rhythms. The test can also be used to assist your cardiologist in establishing a treatment plan for an already diagnosed condition.

It Cannot Tell You The Future
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is measured by how congested the arteries have become. Severe CAD refers to arteries that are more than 70% blocked with plaque, but blockages of less than 50% are considered mild cases that can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes. What a stress test cannot do for those patients who have much milder degrees of disease, is tell your cardiac future. It may show your risk as lower than those with a more advanced form of the disease, but again this test can only tell what’s occurring presently.

The stress test is a powerful diagnostic tool, but it isn’t a fortune teller. It can accurately diagnose what is happening in your heart when it comes under normal levels of stress, but it can’t tell you what to expect from it in the future. For more information about stress testing or if you have concerns about the health of your heart, contact us today.