What A Treadmill Stress Test Can Tell You About Your Health

Treadmill Stress Test

A stress test, also called an exercise stress test, assesses the efficiency of your heart and entire circulatory system via movement. The two primary methods for performing this test include using a stationary bike or treadmill. A treadmill stress test is administered under medical supervision while certain vitals are closely monitored. Today, we will explore why you might need a stress test and what it can tell you about your health.

Heart Health Assessment

The use of a treadmill or stationary bike is utilized to work the heart while it is monitored for circulatory efficiency. If a person can’t tolerate exercise for some reason, a drug can also be administered to mimic the stress of exercise. When an individual undergoes a stress test, one or more of the following vitals are typically monitored to evaluate overall heart health.

  • Heart rate
  • Heart rhythm
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing
  • Symptoms of pain or fatigue

If needed, more complex monitoring can be done too. Options for this might include imaging, an echocardiogram, or a nuclear test (assessing trace minerals in the blood as it circulates through the heart and body).

What a Treadmill Stress Test Can Diagnose

A stress test can be ordered by your doctor if they suspect you have an underlying health issue that is affecting your heart and want to confirm or monitor the issue. Thus, it is not a routine test that is ordered unless there is some kind of concern for your heart. Although, there is some evidence to show that people over 65 and master athletes might benefit from routine stress tests to prevent unnecessary heart issues.

The primary reasons for doing a stress test include the following:

  • Assess the presence of coronary artery disease (when the arteries that provide blood flow to the heart are blocked)
  • Assess problems with heart rhythm. When the heart beats out of sync due to poor electrical signals, called an arrhythmia, it can lead to inefficient heart pumping. Your doctor would be looking for a heartbeat that’s too fast, too slow, and other irregularities.
  • Determine the efficiency of current treatments. If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease and are undergoing active treatment (such as with medications), the efficacy can be assessed by a stress test. Thus, treatment can be adjusted as needed to optimize your heart health.
  • Determine the severity of a heart problem. If you have been living with heart disease, your doctor may want to assess the severity periodically.
  • Decide if your heart is strong enough for surgery. If you need a heart valve replacement, heart transplant, or bypass surgery, your doctor will want to make sure your heart is healthy enough to deal with the stress and recovery process.

What to Expect During a Stress Test

Once your doctor or nurse has conducted an in-depth medical history, they will set you up for your test. You should wear a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing. They will set up electrodes on your chest for monitoring your heart rate throughout. Then, when you’re ready to get started, you will hop on the treadmill and start walking.

While walking on the treadmill, you will start slowly. Then, the speed will incrementally increase over time. You will continue with the test until you experience any of the following symptoms: severe shortness of breath, moderate to severe chest pain, extremely high or low blood pressure, dizziness, extreme fatigue, onset or worsening of an abnormal heart rhythm, or any other discomfort that you are experiencing. Additionally, your doctor or technician may be monitoring you for other signs that you need to stop to keep you safe during the test.

What Your Test Results Mean

Your doctor can analyze and review your results with you following the stress test. From there, you can work with your medical team to make an informed decision on how to proceed. If issues were found that need to be addressed to improve your heart health, you will start any necessary treatment as soon as possible. Plus, your doctor can order further testing if needed to more thoroughly assess your heart condition.

A stress test is a valuable assessment tool for evaluating your overall heart health. If you have concerns about your heart health, talk to your doctor about the potential benefits of undergoing a treadmill stress test.

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