The Importance Of EKGs and Stress Tests
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women worldwide. According to the American Heart Association, about 2,150 Americans die each day from heart disease or stroke. This equates to one person dying every 40 seconds. Your cardiologist can determine your risk of developing heart disease or a heart attack through EKGs and stress tests.
What Kind of Tests are Performed to Check for Heart Disease?
An EKG, also known as an electrocardiogram, measures your heart's activity. EKGs can be administered while you are lying on a table to take a 'snapshot' of your current heart rate, or may be administered as part of a stress test.
Your cardiologist may recommend a stress test if you have heart disease or are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Stress tests allow cardiologists to pinpoint whether you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat. They are often conducted while you exercise, but can also be performed a number of other ways, including by administering medicine to make your heart react as if you were exercising.
In some cases, a nuclear stress test is recommended. This is a great diagnostic tool for checking blood flow to the heart. During this test, a small amount of radioactive tracer is administered into the vein through an IV. Then, a camera is used to detect the tracer and produce images of the heart. This test is allows us to determine whether you are getting adequate blood flow to the heart while active.
How Do These Tests Work?
Before the test begins, we will place electrodes on your chest, arms and legs. These electrodes are connected to a machine that will monitor and record your heart activity.
During typical exercise stress tests, you may either use a treadmill or a stationary bike. The EKG will monitor you from baseline, while you are active, and after you finish exercising. The test has different phases, each of which lasts about three minutes. After each phase is complete, the speed or resistance will be increased.
Both your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored throughout the exercise. The test ends either once you reach your maximum heart rate, when there are symptoms of stress on the heart or lungs, or when we find that there is decreased blood flow to the heart muscles. We will also stop the test if you experience an irregular heartbeat or if your blood pressure drops. The entire test will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Your cardiologist will look at the patterns of electrical activity in the heart and contact you within a few days with the results. In some cases, we may even be able to tell you the results immediately following the test.