What is a Stress Test and When to Take One

Also known as an exercise stress test, a stress test is a type of test that shows you how your heart works during physical activity. This test is very important, especially during or after an exercise. Because exercise improves your heart rate and makes it pump harder and faster, this test can help reveal issues that occur with blood flow within your heart and to other parts of the body.

A stress test usually involves riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill where your heart rhythm, breathing, and blood pressure are monitored. After the test, you will be given a substance that simulates the effects of exercise. You may be asked to undergo this test by your primary care physician if you have symptoms or signs of irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or coronary artery disease. This test is essential as it will help measure the effectiveness of treatment, guide treatment decisions, or help determine the severity of diagnostics you have undergone before (especially if it is related to the heart).

When Do You Take a Stress Test?

Certain diagnostics results may prompt your doctor to conduct a stress test on you. This test is taken when you have some complaints about your physical state. Your primary care physician may recommend this test to:

Diagnose heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) – When there is an abnormal function of the electrical impulses that coordinate the heart rhythm, heart arrhythmias may occur. When this happens, your heart will be beating too slow or too fast or irregularly, and you will be asked to undergo a stress test.

Diagnose coronary artery disease – The main blood vessels in the body are the coronary arteries, and they are responsible for the transfer of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to and from the heart. When these arteries become diseased or damaged, you will develop coronary artery disease. This disease occurs mainly when there is a continuous deposit of cholesterol and other substances (plaques).

Guide treatment of heart disorders – You will need this test if you have been diagnosed with a heart problem before. Your doctor can use these diagnostics to see how well you are responding to treatment. Your doctor can also use this to design a treatment plan for you and tell you how much exercise you can do without affecting your heart.

A stress test can also be used to help decide the timing of cardiac surgery, like valve replacement. If you are a heart failure patient, your doctor may use this test to determine if you will need any advanced therapy like a heart transplant. Lastly, you may be asked to undergo an echocardiographic stress test or a nuclear stress test if the normal test does not point out the cause of your symptoms. You can contact one of our primary care physicians in New Jersey for more information or plan a stress test at one of our four health care centers in North Jersey.

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