If you've ever had problems with your heart or know someone who has, you're likely familiar with the term stress echocardiography. It's a test that doctors use to determine how well your heart and blood vessels are functioning. During the test, a patient begins some type of cardio exercise, typically cycling on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill. While the patient is putting "stress" on their heart, a doctor takes ultrasound images of the patient's heart. The patient's heart is also assessed at rest and the results are compared. The images can help the doctor determine if normal levels of oxygen and blood flow are reaching the organ. Here are a few reasons why a doctor might order this test.
Coronary Artery Disease
A stress test can help determine whether or not a patient is suffering from coronary artery disease also known as coronary heart disease, which is characterized by restricted blood flow in the arteries supplying the heart's blood. It's a very common disease, affecting 16.5 million Americans over the age of 20 and also the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. It's important to catch this disease as quickly as possible so that life-saving measures can bet taken. Stress echocardiography makes that possible.
Determines Stress Tolerance
Stress echocardiography can also help doctors determine just how much stress a patient's heart can take. Anyone recovering from a heart attack or entering a cardiac rehab program needs to know if they can safely raise their heart rate and to what levels. Performing a stress test can help doctors determine just how much strain your heart can take.
Determine Blood Pressure During Exercise
Another use of stress echocardiography is testing a patient's blood pressure while they are exercising and putting stress on their heart. Abnormally high or low blood pressure can point to several cardiac disorders.
Another use of the test is to determine if there are heart abnormalities in the form of arrhythmias, also known as an irregular heartbeat. It means that your heart is beating too fast, too slow, too early, or irregularly. This is caused by a malfunction of the electrical impulses that control heart rhythm. It can feel like your heart is racing or you have a troublesome fluttering in the chest. The average person should have a regular resting heartbeat of around 60-100 beats per minute. The healthier and fitter you are, the slower your resting heartbeat.
For more information about echocardiography, contact a cardiology center like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.