Heyl Family Practice

As part of maintaining a healthy heart, it's essential to understand how well it can handle the challenges of daily life. Enter cardiac stress testing: a powerful diagnostic tool designed to assess your heart's performance under various levels of physical demand. With a stress test, you'll get a more complete and accurate picture of your heart health, allowing you to better manage it.

At Genesis Medical Associates, our primary care providers understand that finding cardiac care can be stressful, which is why our team at the Genesis Cardiology Testing Center offers a range of cardiac tests. Whether you're dealing with heart issues or just want to know more about your heart health, stress testing can provide valuable insight.

What is a Stress Test?

A stress test examines the structure of your heart and how well it functions as your heart rate increases. A nuclear stress test goes a step further and uses a small amount of non-harmful radioactive material, also called a radiotracer, to track how the tracer moved through the arteries of the heart. This can help identify poor blood flow and damage in the heart.
Depending on the type of stress test your doctor orders, you might run on a treadmill for several minutes or be injected with a medication to raise your heart rate. A typical nuclear stress test is done in three stages:

  • Stage I: An IV is inserted into the patient's arm, through which the radiotracer is administered. Then, a specialized camera is positioned close to the patient's chest to capture images of the heart and the radiotracer moving within it. While the patient is still at rest, blood flow to the heart is measured.
  • Stage II: The patient either starts exercising on a treadmill or is injected with a prescribed medication to raise their heart rate. Before this stage ends, the technologist will inject the patient with a radioactive contrast agent to enhance the imaging process.
  • Stage III: Once the patient's heart rate and blood pressure return to their pre-exercise or pre-injection levels, the camera is once again used to obtain images of the radiotracer and the patient's heart. By comparing the exercising and resting images, medical professionals can determine if there have been any changes in blood flow within the heart, providing valuable insights into the heart's overall health and function.

When is a Stress Test Recommended?

There are a number of reasons that a doctor might recommend a stress test. First and foremost, stress tests are often used to assess a patient's risk of heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease. This is a particularly valuable tool for patients who have a family history or other risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. By evaluating how well your heart responds to increased physical demands, your doctor can gain insights into your overall heart health and recommend appropriate lifestyle changes or treatments to mitigate potential risks.

A stress test can also be used as a diagnostic tool for issues with the heart and blood vessels, like coronary artery disease, a form of cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood to and from the heart become narrow or blocked, often due to cholesterol deposits of inflammation. A stress test can also help diagnose an arrhythmia, a condition where the heart beats irregularly or too quickly, which can potentially lead to a heart attack or heart failure.

For people that have already been diagnosed with a heart condition, a stress test can be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Whether you've had a stent placed, bypass surgery, or are on medication for heart disease, a stress test can help your doctor determine whether your current treatment plan is working well and if any adjustments are necessary. Additionally, a stress test might be ordered before a patient undergoes surgery in order to ensure that their heart is healthy enough for the procedure.

How Will The Results Help My Heart?

Once your doctor has the results of your stress test, they'll be able to provide you with specific guidance and recommendations on how to manage your heart health. Depending on the results, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes like sticking to a heart-healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, while avoiding salt, saturated fat, and added sugar. Your provider might also suggest increasing physical activity and getting to a healthy weight, both of which can aid you in creating a heart-healthy lifestyle.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe treatments and/or medications to control your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors. If the results of the stress test indicate that you may be at higher risk of heart disease, your doctor might suggest further testing, treatments, or surgery.

No matter what the results are, a stress test can provide valuable information that you can use to make informed decisions about your heart health. With this knowledge in hand, you'll have the tools and understanding to make lifestyle adjustments that will help keep your heart healthy for years to come.

Schedule Your Check-Up Today!

At Genesis Medical Associates, healthy hearts are our number one priority. From a simple blood pressure test to a more involved stress test, our board-certified primary care providers can give you the support and resources you need to achieve and maintain optimal heart health.

Whether you suspect you might have a heart issue or you're just due for a check-up, annual visits with your primary care provider are the best way to ensure that any heart-related issues can be identified and addressed as quickly as possible. If you haven't had a check-up in the past year or if you're experiencing any symptoms that might indicate a heart condition, it's time to schedule an appointment with your doctor!

If you have any questions about your heart health, reach out to your provider at Genesis Medical Associates. Our knowledgeable providers will work with you to develop an individualized plan that fits your needs and keeps your heart healthy. Schedule your appointment online today; we look forward to helping you stay heart-healthy!