What happens during a stress test and what exactly are they looking for?

February 25, 2010

A stress test is used for the detection of heart disease. It may be conducted by a physician or a trained professional in order to evaluate how much stress the heart is able to manage before it develops an abnormal rhythm or ischemia, which is inadequate flow of blood to the heart.

The exercise stress test is the most common type of stress test. The exercise stress test is used to evaluate the response of the heart to exertion. The individual may be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike at elevating difficulty levels. As he does this, his electrocardiogram, blood pressure and heart rate are monitored. A stress test is usually recommended in order to determine if there is an insufficient flow of blood to the heart when activity levels are increased. Besides this it is also conducted to examine the effectiveness of medications used to regulate ischemia and angina, to determine the possibilities of developing coronary heart disease, to determine the effectiveness of treatments meant to correct problems of blood flow to the heart in individuals with coronary heart disease, to examine abnormal heart rhythm and to plan a safe exercise regimen.

Prior to the test, for a period of four hours the individual is required not to eat or drink anything, except for water. The intake of medications must be discussed with the doctor as certain heart medications must not be taken on the day of the procedure. Before the test begins, the technician will place electrodes on ten areas of the chest. These electrodes are connected to an electrocardiograph monitor or ECG which monitors the electrical activity of the heart during the procedure. The technician will determine the heart rate during rest and also record the blood pressure. Then the individual is asked to begin exercising on the treadmill or exercise bike. The level of difficulty will slowly be increased and the individual is asked to continue exercising until he is exhausted. Heart rate, breathing, perspiration and blood pressure is likely to increase during the test. If there is any dizziness, pain in the jaw, arm or chest, shortness of breath, light headedness or any other symptoms, the individual must inform the doctor. After the test, the individual must exercise slowly for a few minutes to cool off. The blood pressure, ECG and heart rate will be monitored until they return to normal. The duration of the test is usually 7 to 12 minutes.

Submitted by M T on February 25, 2010 at 02:11

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