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The Importance of a Stress Test for Determining Heart Function

The Importance of a Stress Test for Determining Heart Function

When you want to truly evaluate the function of something, you put it through its paces. This is exactly what stress testing does in evaluating the most important organ in your body — your heart.

At James Kim Cardiology, Dr. Kim provides extensive cardiovascular screening to our patients so we can stay one step ahead of cardiovascular disease. If you consider that nearly half of adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease, you understand how important screening tools like stress testing can be.

Here’s a look at how stress testing can provide us an invaluable glimpse into the health of your heart.

Stress testing basics

Evaluating the function of your cardiovascular system while you’re sitting in our offices or lying down on the exam table can provide us with some clues. Performing these same evaluations while you’re truly giving your heart a workout, on the other hand, is all the more revealing.

During a typical stress test, we attach electrodes to your chest, arms, and legs to measure your heart’s electrical activity (which is also called an electrocardiogram). We also attach a blood pressure cuff to measure the amount of force your blood places on the walls of your blood vessels.

During your stress test, we may also use an echocardiogram, which relies on ultrasound waves to provide us with images of your heart in action

Using either a treadmill or a stationary bike, we ask you to start slowly, and then we gradually increase your efforts until we reach your peak heart rate.

As you go, we gather information about how your cardiovascular system is functioning at each intensity level. We also measure how well you recover from the exercise. 

For your part, the test is completely noninvasive, and the only side effect might be a little fatigue after your workout.

What stress testing can determine

One of the dangers of cardiovascular disease is that some of the more common can be asymptomatic. For example, hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it can slowly degrade your cardiovascular health, without any outward signs. 

While we can measure your blood pressure quite easily during a regular exam, evaluating this pressure during a stress test provides us with more valuable clues about your vascular health.

Another example is coronary artery disease, which is the most common form of heart disease, affecting more than 18 million adults in the United States over the age of 20. 

While some people with coronary artery disease may develop symptoms, such as chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath, others display no symptoms, even when there’s high-grade atherosclerosis (artery blockage).

Through stress testing, we can spot hidden problems such as coronary artery disease, as well as several others, including arrhythmias and your potential for heart attack.

If you have more questions about stress testing or you feel you might benefit from such a screening tool, contact one of our locations in National City or Chula Vista, California, to schedule a consultation.

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