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What a Stress Test Can Tell Us About Your Heart Health

Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, providing oxygenated blood so you can function. So when something is wrong with your heart, it causes a variety of issues and can be deadly. Early intervention is key to finding the problem; this is where a stress test can help.

At The Cardiovascular Institute of America, our heart disease specialist is here to help you maintain your heart health. Our esteemed cardiologist, Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, can help you figure out what's going on with your heart through a stress test. 

What's a stress test? 

A stress test is a way for Dr. Velusamy to see how your heart is working during strenuous physical activity. At rest, your heart doesn’t have to do as much work as when you’re physically active—meaning if there’s a problem, it’ll most likely be seen during strenuous activity.

A stress test is performed in one of two ways; an exercise stress test or a medicine stress test. An exercise stress test is performed if you’re healthy enough to sustain running on a treadmill or riding a bike. You’ll be hooked up to an electrocardiogram, or EKG, machine, which monitors your heart rate and rhythm while you exercise.

You’ll start out at a slow pace on the treadmill or bike and gradually go faster to get your heart rate where Dr. Velusamy wants it. When he gets a good reading on the EKG machine, you’ll slow down, and be monitored until your heart rate comes back to normal.

If you aren’t able to exercise due to health problems, Dr. Velusamy may opt for a stress test using medication to get your heart beating faster. It yields the same effect as an exercise stress test without you having to set foot on a treadmill.

There’s also a nuclear stress test—it’s kind of like the exercise test, but uses a type of X-ray dye to see how the blood flows through your heart. This can be helpful to see if your coronary arteries are receiving enough blood flow during exertion.

Reasons you’ll need a stress test

There are a lot of different reasons that may prompt Dr. Velusamy to order a stress test for you. Usually, the main reason for having a stress test is because you’re showing symptoms of limited blood flow to your heart. This could be due to several causes, including:

You may also need a stress test if you’re recovering from heart surgery, or have recently had a heart attack. Dr. Velusamy may also suggest this test if you have a serious history of heart disease in your family, or are currently being treated for heart disease. 

So what does the stress test show?

If your stress test is normal, it means that you don’t have any issues with the blood flow in your heart at rest or during physical exertion. However, if Dr. Velusamy finds any abnormalities during the test, it could mean significant problems with your heart.

If the test shows that you have normal blood flow during rest, but a decrease in blood flow to your heart during exercise, it could indicate a problem. This finding could indicate that you have a blocked artery that isn’t allowing enough blood flow to your heart.

Your stress test could also show signs of coronary artery disease, which is a problem that affects your heart both at rest and during exercise. Coronary artery disease causes plaque to build up in your arteries, leading to blockages in your heart that can be very dangerous.

Another finding your stress test could point to is previous damage to your heart or scar tissue from a previous heart attack. This is important because it tells Dr. Velusamy that you’ve previously suffered damage to your heart, meaning it could happen again.

If any of your findings are positive for a problem in your heart, Dr. Velusamy may order more definitive testing, or schedule you for surgical intervention if necessary.

If you're experiencing cardiac issues and need a stress test, come see Dr. Velusamy at our office in Tampa and Lutz, Florida. Call us or request an appointment online.

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