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Stress Test for Your Heart Health

September 27, 2010

Stress testing your heart sounds exactly like what it is. It puts you under some physical stress in order to see how your heart performs, making it easier to diagnose any issues such as coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. 

heart stress testA stress test can detect situations that may suggest that your heart isn't getting enough blood during exercise, such as:

  • Abnormal changes in your heart rate or blood pressure
  • Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, (particularly important if they occur at low levels of exercise)
  • Abnormal changes in your heart's rhythm or electrical activity
  • If you can't exercise for as long as what's considered normal for someone your age.

A stress test also may be used to assess other problems, such as heart valve disease or heart failure. 

In general, most people will be given some sort of exercise – like walking or running on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle, to make your heart work hard and beat fast. Tests are done on your heart while you exercise.

But for people who have arthritis or some other medical problem that prevents them from exercising for stress test, the stress will have to be done with medication that increases the heart rate. At North Ohio Heart and Ohio Medical Group, we use Lexiscan / Adenosine Myocardial Perfusion Imaging and Dobutamine Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (DMPI). With these, an intravenous catheter is placed in the arm and a scanning tracer is injected. After it’s had a chance to circulate, an image of your heart at rest is taken (like a photograph). Then the stress-inducing medication is taken, more tracer is injected and another image is taken. 

Learn more at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s website.