Your everyday health depends on your heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. At Brookhaven Heart, we use a number of methods to assess how well your heart performs this basic function. A stress test provides a noninvasive way for our specialists to see how your blood vessels contract when your heart pumps.
During a routine stress test, also known as a treadmill ECG, physicians will monitor your heart’s activity during moderate exercise. After placing electrodes on your chest, your doctor will ask you to walk on a treadmill to raise your heart rate to a certain number. While you walk, your doctor will monitor blood pressure data transmitted from the electrodes to look for evidence that your blood vessels are narrowing.
To prepare for a stress test, you should:
- Consume only water for the four hours before the exam.
- Wear shoes and clothing comfortable for walking.
- Consult your physician regarding any medication you are taking.
- Bring your inhaler (if you use one).
If you are diabetic, ask your physician about any changes you should or should not make to your medications and eating habits before a stress test.
Nuclear Stress Test
A nuclear stress test allows your physician to take a closer look at your heart. For a nuclear stress test procedure, a specialist will inject a small amount of dye through an IV into your vein. A nuclear camera will take images of how the blood flows through your heart at rest. You will then either walk on a treadmill or take medication to stress your heart. Once your heart rate goes up, the specialist will inject more dye and take another round of images.
As with a routine stress exam, you should not eat or drink anything besides water for four hours before a nuclear stress test. You should also abstain from caffeine for a full 24 hours before the test. Inform your physician about any medications you are taking, and bring a snack with you to eat midway through the test.
Cardiac Stress Test
A registered physician often performs a cardiac stress test to determine whether or not you have heart disease. A doctor or trained technician will perform this relatively simple and non-invasive procedure. In doing so, your doctor will learn exactly how much your heart can handle before an abnormal rhythm begins to form or blood flow starts to drop.
There are various types of stress tests, which include an exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, or a stress EKG. The exercise stress test is the most used procedure by doctors. You will most likely walk on a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bike, and your heart will respond accordingly to the pressures of the activity. Your electrocardiogram, heart rate, and blood pressure are all tracked by the physician throughout the procedure. For the test to be successful, you may be asked to stop taking heart drugs for a short period. If you have any questions, ask your physician before the process starts.
Lexiscan Stress Test
Many people who require a cardiac stress test are unable to use a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle because of their medical conditions. Your physician may use a Lexiscan stress test when exercise is not a viable option. The Lexiscan will produce images of the heart to diagnose CAD. However, you should not receive a Lexiscan stress test if you already have certain abnormal heart rhythms unless you have a pacemaker. Your doctor will determine whether or not the test is right for you.
You will be awake during the procedure, either lying down or sitting comfortably in a chair. Your doctor will place a catheter in the vein of your arm, which is then used to inject the Lexiscan into the bloodstream for ten seconds. This fluid dilates the coronary arteries to allow increased blood flow. Your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen are monitored thoroughly throughout the test.
Treadmill Stress Test
Patients who suffer from coronary artery blockages may experience minimal symptoms and unremarkable EKG while resting. However, common symptoms may arise when the heart is stressed during exercise. This is why your heart specialist may require a stress test performed on the treadmill.
We perform a treadmill stress test when the patient exhibits signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease or is at risk for coronary artery disease. We also conduct this test to evaluate the patient’s exercise tolerance; many patients who have unexplained fatigue or shortness of breath undergo a stress test to discover exactly what causes these symptoms. At Brookhaven Heart, we use the treadmill stress test to identify any underlying problems plaguing your heart. By watching your vital signs, your heart specialist can determine any abnormal rhythms or blood floor to the heart. If either of these signs drop, we know a heart condition may be present.
Stress Test Procedure
Doctors administer routine stress tests, often known as exercise stress tests, on a fairly frequent basis. To start, your doctor will enquire about your medical history and how often you. Remember, your heart specialist needs this information to improve your health; try not to keep anything from them.
After recording your medical information, your specialist can start the stress test itself. A nurse or technician will attach electrodes (connected by wires to an electrocardiogram machine) to your chest, legs, and arms. These electrodes record your heart’s electrical signals. The test then begins in earnest. You will start off slowly walking on a treadmill or pedaling on a stationary bike. As the trial progresses, the technician will alter the speed and incline of either machine to increase the challenge. The test will end once either your heart rate achieves a set target, or you show certain symptoms.
Stress tests serve as a simple but highly effective way for our cardiologists to assess your heart condition. If you want to learn more about regular or nuclear stress tests, or about any of our other services, contact us at 631-654-3278 for our Patchogue office or (631) 654-3278 for our New Hyde Park location.
How should I prepare for the exercise stress test?
Your heart specialist may ask you not to eat, drink, or smoke for up to two hours before the test is administered. If you are curious, you should ask your doctor whether or not to avoid caffeine or certain medications that you may be taking. These medications may negatively interfere with certain exercise stress tests. It is better to be safe than sorry, so you should ask whatever questions you need to before the trial date.
If you regularly use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing-related problems, bring the inhaler with you to the exercise stress test. Your doctor or another health care team member will monitor your entire stress test and should know about the inhaler. If they do not, please do not hesitate to speak up and let them know of your condition. Any information is useful to your heart specialist!