Stress testing uses exercise or medicine to make the heart work hard and beat fast while heart tests are done. Captain Miller, can you tell us more about stress testing?
Sure, Dr. Mansfield. When the heart is working hard and beating fast, it needs more blood and oxygen, but arteries narrowed by plaque can't supply enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the heart's needs. Stress testing forces the heart to work hard in order to reveal possible signs and symptoms of plaque-narrowed arteries.
Signs of coronary artery disease often shown in stress testing include:
- Abnormal changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Shortness of breath or chest pain, and
- Abnormal changes in the heart's rhythm or electrical activity
If a person can't exercise for as long as what is considered normal for someone their age, their heart may not be getting enough oxygen-rich blood. However, other factors can also affect a person's endurance, such as lung diseases, anemia, or poor general fitness.
In some stress tests, pictures are taken of the heart during exercise and during rest. These imaging tests can show how well blood is flowing in the heart and how well the heart pumps blood when it beats.