A commonly used procedure for detecting any problems with the heart is the Exercise stress test and is also called as the cardiac stress test. By monitoring and measuring the heart’s ability to operate when under stress, any abnormal features pertaining to the normal functioning of the heart can be detected. By performing an exercise stress test, the doctor will be able to monitor the heart’s functions when under exertion and make sure that the blood flow patterns to the different parts of the body are normal. It can also be used to find out the limit to which the patient can exert himself/herself before the heart starts developing any irregular beats or rhythm.
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The benefits of an exercise stress test for detecting heart problems
Reasons why an exercise stress test is performed on a patient:
The cardiac stress test is not limited to a single disease or abnormality alone. It can be used to determine and detect a wide range of problems with the heart and prevent any future problems for the patient. However, it is commonly used for the following reasons:
- Monitoring the blood flow from the heart to the different parts of the body when under stress or when undergoing any strenuous physical activities.
- It can detect the probability of the patient developing any coronary heart diseases or complications in the future. This can be a life-saving feature as it can detect any early problems with the heart and thus help to develop appropriate measures and treatments to deal with it.
- It can also be used to determine how other procedures performed to improve the blood flow conditions to the heart have performed so far and their effectiveness in achieving the desired results in the patient.
- It can also help determine the type of activities that may be unsafe for the patient and thus develop a safe and efficient programme for exercises and other physical activities.
General protocols and procedure in stress testing
An exercise stress test is a relatively simple procedure used to measure the blood flow in the heart and to the different parts of the body when under exertion or stress. After an electrocardiogram is attached to the patient, he/she is asked to use either a treadmill or a bicycle. In either case, there are many stages that the patient has to go through in order to produce the best results from the test. For example, there are warm up stages that the patient has to work through before the stress and the level of activity can be increased. It usually is stopped after the doctors get the desired readings.
However, in the case where the patient cannot continue any further or is developing other issues such as muscle cramps or other related problems, the test can be stopped. The results are then interpreted by trained professionals and the appropriate action for the patient can be taken. The patient can prepare for the exercise stress test by wearing loose fitting clothes and shoes. As it does not affect the patient in any way, he/she can get back to the regular everyday routine after the procedure.
Risks and complications that can develop during exercise stress testing
As it is a non-invasive procedure, there are no dangerous complications or risks associated with stress testing. However, as the patient has to undergo physical exercises such as running on a treadmill or cycling, it may cause low blood pressure, dizziness and irregular heartbeat. In extreme cases, stress testing can even provoke a heart attack in the patient.