Understanding How a Stress Test Works

If you or someone you know has ever had to do a stress test, you may remember more about the animated discussion with family and friends after the test than the actual test itself. Admittedly, it makes great fodder for a comical story, but the medical reasons for getting a stress test in the first place are far from funny.

Results from this versatile diagnostic tool can literally save your life.  

In this blog, our highly skilled providers at Cardio Metabolic Institute dive into the ins and outs of a stress test so you can gain a better understanding of what takes place and why it’s an important tool in your doctor’s toolbox.

Stress test explained

Like any diagnostic test, a stress test is used to get a fix on how well your body is functioning. Sometimes called an exercise stress test or stress EKG, the stress test puts your body through its paces to find out how efficiently or inefficiently blood pumps through your body.

Generally an appointment for a stress test can last about an hour, although the exercising part usually takes about a quarter of the time. For your convenience, the medical team at Cardio Metabolic Institute conducts a stress test as an in-office screening.

After providing a brief overview of what to expect during the test, your technician records your resting heart rate as well as your blood pressure. Your technician also records a baseline electrocardiogram, or EKG, which measures your heart’s electrical activity.

The EKG is collected through small electrode patches that your technician sticks on the skin of your chest, legs, and arms. They record your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical impulses traveling through your heart throughout the stress test.

A stress test can diagnose heart disease

Typically, a stress test takes place on a treadmill, but it can also be conducted on a stationary bicycle. Your technician can increase the treadmill speed or elevation to mimic an incline with the intention of making your heart pump faster and harder.

The metrics measured during this process shed light on how well your heart works under pressure. Heart disease such as heart rhythm issues, commonly called arrhythmias, can be diagnosed through this method.

A stress test can detect blocked arteries

Similarly, a stress test can also detect blockages in your arteries — especially ones that narrow the arteries by 70% or more. 

Keep in mind that a stress test is one snapshot in time that can provide part of the story of why you may be experiencing chest pain or difficulty breathing. It can’t definitively predict a heart attack, but it can show that you’re at a higher risk of having one. Your doctor may recommend other diagnostic tests to further evaluate your condition.

A stress test tracks heart treatment progress

In addition to being a diagnostic tool, if you’re already undergoing treatment for heart disease, your provider may order periodic stress tests to monitor the progress of your treatment plan. If you’re undergoing treatment for your heart, a stress test can also serve as a handy tool to determine the safest exercise program for you.

To learn more about stress tests, contact Cardio Metabolic Institute in Somerset, Monroe Township, or East Brunswick, New Jersey, for a consultation. Click or call today for an appointment at the office nearest you.

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