Scare tactics aren’t the best way to introduce a conversation about your health, but the reality is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, and about one in three of these deaths could have been prevented.
Dr. Satjit Bhusri and our team of heart health experts here at Upper East Side Cardiology in New York City are all too familiar with these numbers, which is why we focus our efforts on prevention. And when it comes to detecting a cardiovascular problem, a stress test is often one of the first tools we turn to, as it offers us a detailed look at your heart in action.
Stress testing 101
While it’s all very well for us to analyze your heart while you’re sitting in our office, this only gives us part of the picture. To really assess the function of your heart, it’s helpful to do so when it’s hard at work, which is the goal of a stress test.
During a stress test, we ramp up the activity of your heart by having you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. During the exercise, we record your heart rate, heart activity, respiration rate, and blood oxygen levels to identify any potential problems. For patients who can’t perform these exercises, we use a medication to stimulate the heart in a way that mimics exercise.
Who should undergo stress testing
As we mentioned, stress testing is one of the first diagnostic tools we turn to when we suspect there’s a problem, so it’s not necessarily a part of your regular heart exam.
If you’ve been displaying certain symptoms of a problem, stress testing can help us further advance our diagnosis.
These symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing, especially with exertion
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Ongoing chest pain or tightness
- Heart palpitations
While stress testing plays a valuable diagnostic role, we also use it to determine safe exercise levels for you and as a tool to check whether a medication or interventional therapy has improved your heart health.
Undergoing a stress test
The stress test itself is completely harmless, though you should be prepared for a little exercise. To get started, we outfit you with electrodes, a blood pressure cuff, and a breathing tube (only in some cases) and record your resting heart rate and breathing rate, as well as your blood pressure. We also record your heart’s electrical activity at different points during your stress test.
Once set up, you slowly begin walking or pedaling, and you continue to ramp up your level of exertion until you reach your limits.
At this point, we slow it down again and continue recording your vitals as they return to resting levels. And that’s all there is to it.
Afterward, we analyze the information we’ve gathered to determine next steps, which can often help prevent serious heart disease from developing.
If you'd like to learn more about the role that stress testing can play in your heart health, contact our office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at 646-4395-170 to set up an appointment. You can also request an appointment online.