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What is a stress test?

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Stress test is a test that determines the capacity of your heart to tolerate maximum stress before it shows any abnormality.

Basically there are 4 types of stress tests and they are as follows:

1.Treadmill Test: TMT test stands for Treadmill test. It is also connoted as exercise stress test and exercise tolerance test. TMT is a medical diagnostic procedure which is done to ensure if your heart is receiving enough oxygen and blood flow during highly strenuous physical activities.

We will explain you the details of TMT in this article.

2.Adenosine Stress Test: This test is specially meant for people who are incapable of physical activities like walking, running, exercising, etc because of the problems such as arthritis. The person is given adenosine which makes the heart respond as if the person is exercising so that he/she can detect how the heart is responding to stress. Sometimes this test is combined with walking on the treadmill at low speed for more accurate results. Adenosine may cause mild breathlessness while conducting the test.

3.Stress echocardiogram: This technique implies ultrasound imaging and draws a graphic outline (echocardiogram) of the movement of heart. It clearly shows the pumping action of heart under stress including the blood flow. You will either be asked to exercise or given a pill like dobutamine to record the activity of your heart.

4.Nuclear stress test: As the name suggests, in this test, a radioactive substance (such as thallium or sestamibi) will be injected in the body. A special camera will scan the heart and depict the movement of the substance inside the body during rest and while exercising. Thus, the part of the heart that’s not functioning properly can be diagnosed.

Why is TMT advised?

The test is mainly performed to know your heart health or if you are prone to any kind of heart disease.  It’s advised because of the following reasons.

  • It can estimate if you are in the risk of developing a heart disease, like high cholesterol even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • To test your ability to tolerate the exercise even while suffering from too much fatigue and shortness in breath.
  • It’s capable of assessing the effectiveness of an undergoing heart disease treatment.
  • To confirm coronary artery disease (CAD), narrowing of arteries, heart valve problems (stenonis), etc.
  • To detect some irregular heartbeats caused due to exercise
  • Whether you can exercise freely if you have diabetes or any kind of heart disease or after an bypass surgery or angioplasty

How to Prepare for the Test?

You must consult your doctor to make sure if you can continue or should stop any kind of medication you are taking on the day of the test. This includes pain killers, steroids and sexual stimulants also.

Your doctor will advise you to not smoke or drink before 3 hours of the test. Your stomach should be completely empty. Secondly, you will also be asked to exclude chocolates, tea, coffee, aerated drinks, and other types of caffeine rich beverages.

What is Done During the Procedure?

  • The doctor or the technician places electrodes like sticky patches on your chest and a gel for conducting electrical impulses. These electrodes are attached to an ECG monitor to record the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Your doctor will conduct several ECGs before you start the exercise in order to perform a comparative study.
  • Once this is done, you will start walking on a treadmill or ride an exercise bicycle. You will be advised to increase the speed gradually.
  • Your heart rate will be monitored with electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood pressure readings will also be taken.
  • You will be asked to exercise until you reach the target heart rate.

However, your doctor will stop the test if he observes drop in blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and coldness in skin. Also express if you experience dizziness, fainting, tiredness, pain in legs or chest pain, then the test will be stopped.

What to Expect After?

You can return to normal activities after a certain period after the test. Your doctor will advise you to rest until your heart beat returns to normal. The results are subject to vary from person to person and are dependent upon your health condition. Secondly, the abnormalities will also get detected based on how you perform the test. Your doctor may take a few hours to prepare a detailed report.

Risks Involved

  • Low blood pressure might lead to dizziness or fatigue
  • Since you have exercised, you might experience irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) after the test. Tell your doctor in case it doesn’t go away despite rest.

There’s no harm in undergoing a TMT in order to rule out any underlying heart implications.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 02, 2015

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