From potential risks to reading results and everything in between, this guide will tell you exactly what you need to know about a stress echocardiogram.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. In fact, this health problem is so pervasive that 610,000 Americans die from it every year. Fatal heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.
As with most diseases, it’s better to practice preventative care before things get serious. For heart disease, this means years of consuming a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
It’s also important to see your doctor on a regular basis, as even the best preventative practice cannot always prevent disease. For heart disease, the stress echocardiogram can help measure the organ’s function.
You’ve likely seen this test featured in movies and television shows but may not know what it’s like in real life. Read on to find out more details about stress echocardiograms.
What Is It?
Stress echocardiography is a special test that requires a patient to do exercise while a medical professional measures heart function.
As your heart rate increases, a doctor will take ultrasound imaging of your heart, showing the distribution of blood and oxygen to the heart’s muscles.
If you suffer from chest pain, this test in an important way to determine how much exercise your heart can tolerate. It can also measure the effectiveness of heart disease treatments.
How To Prepare
The test itself takes about an hour to complete. It’s recommended not to eat or drink within three to four hours before the test. Of course, you shouldn’t smoke the day of the test, or ever, for that matter.
Not only will nicotine negatively affect your results, but so will caffeine. Avoid coffee or any other products with caffeine before the test.
Ask your doctor about any medications you take, and whether you should take them the day of the test. Many can interfere with results, leading to inaccurate information.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes as this test requires a lengthy period of exercise.
How It’s Done
Luckily, stress echocardiograms are noninvasive. They are generally safe, but the exercise involved can lead to rare complications like dizziness, fainting, an abnormal heart rate, or even a heart attack.
Before the test, your doctor will place sticky electrodes on your chest. These measure the electrical activity in your heart. You’ll also need to lay on your side as your doctor takes an ultrasound of your heart. This is the resting echocardiography part of the test.
During the stress portion of the test, you will do exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike. Your exercise will increase in intensity as you need to reach peak heart rate. Make sure to tell your doctor if you feel any ill side effects.
Finally, your doctor will take one last ultrasound and continue measuring your vitals as you return to a resting state.
Your Stress Echocardiogram
If you’re concerned about the quality of your blood vessels and heart function, the stress echocardiogram is the test for you. A medical professional will use the results to tell you exactly how much stress your heart can tolerate.