If your chest feels tight for no good reason, a visit to a heart specialist is in order. You probably already know that chest pain is one sign of a heart attack. You need to rule that out as soon as possible.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, and experts say about one in three of these deaths can be prevented.
Board-certified interventional cardiologist Yogesh Paliwal, MD, and his team at Indus Cardiology provide expert care to patients who have heart problems or suspect they do. One of the first diagnostic tools the team uses to determine the condition of a patient’s heart is a stress test. Here’s what they do and how often you should get one.
What information does a stress test provide?
A stress test gives us critical information on your heart while it’s at work. During a stress test, you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. The test provides us with detailed information on your heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygen levels, and other heart activity. If you can’t perform these exercises, we give you a medication to stimulate your heart in a way that mimics exercise.
What symptoms indicate a stress test is needed?
The stress test, given while your heart is actively working, provides our team with information needed to complete your exam and get to the root of any symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you have the following symptoms, this could indicate that you need a stress test:
- Difficulty breathing during regular activity and exertion, such as climbing stairs
- Experiencing dizzy spells or feeling faint
- Chest discomfort, such as tightness or pain
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart rhythm
As well as a diagnostic tool, they help us formulate a safe exercise plan for you. They also help us check whether a medication or interventional therapy has improved your heart health.
What happens during a stress test?
Stress tests are noninvasive, so there’s nothing to fear about them. First, we place electrodes on your chest, arms, and legs along with a blood pressure cuff. While you’re still sedentary, we record your resting heart rate and breathing rate as well as your blood pressure. We also record your heart’s electrical activity at different points during your stress test.
Once we have data on your heart at rest, you begin walking or pedaling slowly, while gradually ramping up your level of exertion until you reach your limits. You may be asked to breathe into a tube while you’re exercising.
Then we ask you to slow your exertion level, and we record your vitals as they return to resting levels. It’s a simple exercise. Once the test is done, our team analyzes the data to determine any next steps, if necessary.
We may also decide to do a nuclear stress test to determine blood flow to your heart. This test involves your nurse injecting a solution into a vein. Other than the prick, it doesn’t hurt.
How often are stress tests needed?
How often you may need a stress test will depend on your risk level. Depending on your condition and symptoms, Dr. Paliwal will determine if your risk is low, intermediate, or high. If you have coronary artery disease or heart arrhythmia, you may benefit from regular stress testing. Once Dr. Paliwal determines your risk level, he will advise you on how often you may need a stress test.
If you have any troubling signs involving your heart, book an appointment online or over the phone with Indus Cardiology today.