When your doctor suggests tests that could indicate a problem with your heart, it can be worrisome. However, finding out you have an issue means treatment can start, and that could be key to a good outcome.
At Heart & Vascular Institute, our cardiologists have many diagnostic tools to help them understand the health of your heart, decide what kind of treatment is most appropriate for you, and determine how well your treatment works over time. One of those tools is a stress test.
More than one stress test
Thanks to popular culture, when you think of a stress test, you probably imagine jogging on a treadmill with wires attached to your chest. That’s one type, an exercise stress echocardiogram. It involves having an echocardiogram while you’re increasing your heart rate through exercise.
We also offer other types of stress tests, including pharmacological stress tests, where we use medications to get your heart to behave as if you’re exercising. We use different medications depending on your symptoms and what we’re trying to learn.
You might also need an exercise nuclear stress test. That’s similar to an exercise stress echocardiogram except we inject a small amount of a safe radioactive substance into your bloodstream so your doctor can follow it as it moves through your body.
We can also do a similar test using medications to simulate exercise.
Who needs a stress test?
At one time, a stress test was fairly routine, especially for men in middle age. Now, we’re more targeted in ordering stress tests. If you have chest pain at predictable times, like when you exercise, but it goes away, we may do a stress test.
If you have an irregular heartbeat or symptoms that could indicate an irregular heartbeat, a stress test could help us diagnose a problem such as arrhythmia.
Another common reason for a doctor to order a stress test is if you experience shortness of breath at unusual times. For example, it makes sense to be a bit out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, but not if you’re relaxing on the sofa.
Your cardiologist considers your symptoms, medical history, other test results, and other factors in deciding which diagnostic tests to use. If you’ve been receiving treatments for some time, we may ask for a stress test to understand how well your treatment works.
Does a stress test hurt?
If you take an exercise stress test and usually have chest pain during exercise, you might feel that same pain. However, remember that when you take the test, you’re in a room full of experts who know what you need.
Most people don’t feel pain during a stress test, though. Our goal is to help you avoid pain by having a healthy heart! If you do feel pain, let the person conducting the test know right away.
Do you have questions about getting a stress test? Schedule an appointment at Heart & Vascular Institute, with offices in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan. We’re always happy to answer your questions and discuss your particular situation.