Despite its name, a stress test does not test one’s mental stress level. Rather, this test is used to check the level of health of the heart muscle. Specifically, it looks at how well the heart functions under stress. To do this, the heart must first be placed in a stressful situation. This is usually done by placing the patient on a treadmill or on an exercise bicycle. However, there are other options for patients who are unable to exercise like this. Here are a few of the most basic facts about stress tests.
Who Needs One?
Not everyone who reaches a certain age needs a stress test. Instead, these tests are reserved for those who are at high risk for heart disease, such as those who have a major family history of cardiovascular disease or who have had heart disease in the past. Additionally, those with active symptoms, such as chest pain with exertion or shortness of breath, may need a test.
What Happens during an Exercise Stress Test?
The patient will be hooked up to a variety of machines to check the health of the heart, such as a blood pressure cuff and an EKG machine. While the patient exercises at an increasingly difficult level, the machines will take readings and make a note of issues that affect the strength or rhythm of the heart.
What Other Types of Stress Tests Are There?
A nuclear stress may be used to give a better picture of the heart while exercising and following exercise. In this test, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient to show the heart more clearly. The dobutamine or adenosine stress test is used for individuals who cannot exercise. The special injectable medication stresses the heart much like exercising would to produce similar symptoms and results.