Common Questions About Taking a Stress Test, Answered

As we all get older, there will be certain health issues that come up. It seems the longer we live, the more ailments arise that you thought you would never have to suffer through. Some of it can get pretty embarrassing. Have you had a colonoscopy yet? If you haven’t, then you must not be 50 years old yet or have had to deal with gut issues. This is just one trip to the hospital to look forward to. 

One trip that you may have to go see a doctor for is the stress test. It definitely is not a very awkward experience compared to other medical tests, and yet it still can provide your physician some important information about your health and fitness. 

Why Your Doctor May Order a Stress Test?

There are several possibilities why your physician would order a stress test. Perhaps your family has a history or heart problems or cardiovascular disease. If you have brought up shortness of breath to your doctor, then a stress test is an obvious choice for him to recommend. Also, if you have ever had chest pain or had an irregular heartbeat, then the medical professional would be wise to have you take a stress test. 

What Is the Stress Test Process Like?

Having a stress test done either at your doctor’s office or the hospital is actually a pretty simple and non-invasive procedure. You will be asked not to drink or eat anything that day before the test. This is why most of the time it is completed one of the first things in the morning. If yours is scheduled for later, ask to have it moved up. Who wants to go half a day without eating or drinking? 

They will do the usual things once you arrive, like taking your weight and things of that nature. Be sure that you wear clothes that allow you to be active. Shorts or sweatpants are a great option and a loose-fitting shirt will be fine. A medical professional will then attach little sticky patches to your chest area. These will allow for the proper monitoring of the heart. If you have a hairy chest, you may want to shave it a day or two before. Stress tests are hard enough without having your chest hair yanked out. 

Once all the patches are placed, they will hook up what seems to be about a 100 different wires to them. However, it is actually only about 20 or so. It just feels like more because you are standing there with your chest out in front of them making small talk. In a way, them attaching all these wires may remind you of all the wires you had to hook up back in the day when attaching your vcr to your television. After a bit, they will finish and ask you to lower your shirt.

The next step is they fasten a belt with some sort of monitor around your waist. This monitor is attached to all of those wires they just attached. It’s a little bit bigger than those old pagers that people used to wear on their belt years ago. 

Lastly, they will take your blood pressure by placing that inflatable cuff around the upper part of your arm. If you want to impress the nurse or doctor that is performing this test, refer to the blood pressure monitor as a sphygmomanometer. They will take an original reading, and then a continuous one as the stress test occurs. Once the blood pressure gauge is around your arm, you are ready to start.

They will ask you to hop up on the treadmill as they control the speed and the incline of it. They start you off slow and at a small incline, but every two minutes or so they ramp it up. The goal is to get your heart rate at or above 150 beats per minute. They will monitor your heart rate all throughout the test. 

It may take ten minutes before your heart rate gets above 150 beats per minute. Plus, don’t worry if you struggle to run on the treadmill. They usually just have you doing the test at a very brisk walk. The amount on the incline of the treadmill will be the thing that gets your heart rate up to where they want it. Once you get in the zone they want, they will do a brief cool down on the treadmill and then have you sit in a chair after a bit for a few minutes. During this entire time, they will be monitoring everything. 

What Will a Stress Test Show?

The stress test will determine how your heart responds when a strain is placed on it. The machine that you are hooked up to is generally an electrocardiogram machine (EKG). It can also detect when arteries are severely narrowed down 70 percent or more. If your arteries are that narrowed, that could be the cause of your symptoms. The bad news is that heart attacks can often occur when lesser blockages erupt and form clots in the life-providing arteries. 

All in all, a stress test is really not that stressful. It is an interesting process and doctors can find out quite a bit about your health in general. If you have to undergo a stress test at anytime in your life, you now know what to expect. 

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