A stress test, also known as an exercise test or a treadmill test, can help determine how effectively a person’s heart performs when exercising. It can also aid in the diagnosis of a variety of cardiac problems.
A stress test consists of walking on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike while medical instruments track your breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac rhythm.
Some patients, such as those with arthritis, may not participate in an exercise stress test because of their condition. Instead, a doctor will prescribe them medication to help their hearts work harder, similar to during exercise.
Are there more types of stress tests? Well, let’s talk about that.
Types of Stress Tests
Depending on the individual’s demands, there are a few different ways to complete a stress test.
Exercise Stress Test
During a stress test, the doctor will monitor the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and fatigue levels at various degrees of physical exertion.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what happens during a treadmill stress test:
After attaching adhesive electrodes to the person’s chest, the doctor will take some readings to monitor the heart.
Then, the individual will stand on the treadmill.
● They will begin to walk slowly as the treadmill begins to move.
● The pace of the treadmill will progressively rise.
● The treadmill may move uphill or downhill.
Finally, the patient will breathe into a mouthpiece to measure the amount of air they exhale.
The treadmill will come to a halt, and the patient will lie down while the doctor takes their blood pressure and other vital signs.
The individual will exercise for 10–15 minutes, but they have the option to stop at any point if they are feeling weak.
If the patient has any of the following symptoms, the doctor may decide to halt the test:
- Blood pressure that is too high
- Blood pressure that is too low
- Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Exhaustion from shortness of breath
- If the electrocardiogram (EKG) gadget detects any odd changes in the cardiac rhythm, the test will end.
Exercise-free stress test
If a person cannot exercise, a doctor may prescribe a medicine to mimic the same process.
In this situation, they will place electrodes on the person’s chest and administer the drug through an IV line into their arm. The drug starts to work in 15–20 minutes.
The medicine will stimulate the heart. It may produce flushing or shortness of breath, similar to those seen after exercise.
Nuclear stress test
The doctor may propose a nuclear stress test as the following step based on the results.
A nuclear heart examination, also known as a radionuclide scan, can provide a more complete and precise evaluation of the heart.
The procedure is identical to an exercise stress test, except that a tracer dye will be injected into the arm to highlight the heart and blood flow on an image. The dye will highlight any parts of the heart where blood isn’t flowing, which may indicate an obstruction.
Subsequently, the patient will take a radiation-free imaging test, such as a single-photon emission computer tomography or a cardiac PET test.
Two sets of photos, each lasting 15–30 minutes, will be taken by the doctor. The first will be taken shortly after the person has exercised, and the second will be taken when their body is at rest, perhaps later that day or the next day. Before the individual exercises, they may also capture “at rest” images.
This procedure allows the doctor to compare how the heart appears and performs in every day and stressful situations.
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What can you expect?
You may be advised against drinking caffeinated beverages or taking certain drugs on test day. This precaution is necessary because these chemicals may impact the outcome.
Anyone who uses an inhaler regularly should bring it to the test and inform the doctor.
Exercise Stress Test
We recommend wearing comfortable clothing and walking shoes.
The doctor will connect the patient to several medical instruments to monitor their heart during the exam. To do this, the doctor will place:
A blood pressure cuff around the arm and a pulse monitor on the finger.
Adhesive patches, or electrodes, on the chest.
A nurse may need to shave a person’s chest to allow the electrode patches to stick.
Exercise-free Stress Test
If the patient cannot exercise, a medical professional will insert an IV line into the arm. Then a substance will be infused into the arm. Shortness of breath or a headache may result as a result of this.
Nuclear Stress Test
On the day of the nuclear stress test, no oil, lotion, or moisturizer should be applied to the skin.
The doctor will give the subject a tracer liquid injection. The injection might make you feel chilly. Before and after the exercise, the technician will take several heart photos. For these photographs, a person lies flat on a table.
The amount of time spent exercising is determined by the frequency with which a person exercises and their medical history. Therefore, the exam may take an hour or more.
What is the doctor monitoring?
The following are some of the aspects that the doctor will try to assess:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Readings from the EKG
- How physical activity impacts tiredness levels
- Pulse and waves of the heart
What can the outcomes reveal?
- Blood flow is normal during activity and at rest.
- Blood flow is normal at rest but not during exertion, indicating a clogged artery.
- Reduced blood flow during exercise and rest may indicate coronary artery disease.
- If no dye is present in some heart regions, it may indicate tissue damage.
Doctors recommend that patients exercise at 85% of their maximal heart rate. The maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting the individual’s age from 220.
A doctor may advise patients to stop exercising if their heart rate exceeds their “maximum.”
The doctor will then examine how quickly a person’s heart rate returns to normal after exercise. The correct rate can be calculated by subtracting the peak heart rate from the heart rate one minute after exercise. If a person’s heart rate has drastically decreased, they have made an easy recovery.
Why should you do a stress test?
Stress testing can aid in the diagnosis of a variety of cardiac problems. They can also demonstrate how effectively a person’s heart manages a workload and assist in detecting if it’s safe for the patient to engage in an activity that may strain their heart.
A doctor can also recommend a stress test if a patient exhibits symptoms that might suggest a cardiac issue, such as:
- A rapid or erratic heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain and dizziness
The stress test can identify abnormalities such as insufficient blood flow via the coronary arteries when the heart beats faster during exercise. However, these issues may not be visible at other times.
Stress Test Risks
The nuclear stress test and the exercise stress test are both generally safe.
However, in rare circumstances, they may have negative consequences. These include a heart attack or persistent alterations in heart rhythm following the test.
According to statistics, this occurs in about 1 in 10,000 occurrences. As a result, doctors only prescribe this test if a person fits specific requirements.
If you have any of the following conditions, you should not do an exercise stress test:
- A history of heart or cardiovascular disease.
- Due to illnesses such as arthritis, you are unable to exercise.
- Having experienced a stroke or a heart attack recently.
- Also, pregnant women should avoid certain stress tests.
A stress test can reveal how effectively the heart is operating and aid in diagnosing various cardiac diseases.
It can also indicate how much stress a person’s heart can withstand. This information is beneficial when preparing for heart surgery or a rigorous workout regimen.
The test typically entails walking on a treadmill while a doctor keeps track of your heart rate. On the other hand, people with limited mobility may require a specific substance to achieve the same result.
If you’re looking to keep an eye on your heart health, don’t hesitate to call our office for an appointment or ask any questions. We’d be happy to help!