If you can avoid any type of serious stress test, it is in your best interest to know how to do this. It’s not terrible to go for a treadmill or stationary bike stress test every year if you can afford to do so. It is important that you speak with your doctor about scheduling an annual medical physical, especially if you’ve never had one before. If you don’t exercise regularly, then you should do a stress test which may reveal something even if you are symptom-free.
Your doctor will have to choose between the various stress tests, as explained in other articles. The treadmill stress test is a good example of a stress test that isn’t quite as complex as others and is used quite frequently. A stress test that is more elaborate is the nuclear stress test. It simple refers to the illumination of your blood using radioactive energy emitted by special tracers. As the name implies, you’ll be walking on a treadmill for the treadmill stress test, as if you were engaging in exercise. This helps to increase you heart rate and places stress on your entire cardiovascular system. You’ll be all wired up for the electrocardiogram (EKG), and a doctor will be present to make sure all goes well. A stress test can only work if your heart is under some type of stress or strain to get the readings. EKGs can only work with a stressed heart. If you are relaxed, then there will not be any usable readings. When people say “loading your heart down”, it is referring to stressing it out just a bit. You can do this by running in place, or just walking fast for several minutes. It is during the loaded down situation where abnormalities can or will become evident. Situations like this happen all the time, but not for every person. Feeling fine, and having no symptoms, will not help in discovering if you have problems with your heart.
If your doctor advises you to get a cardiovascular stress test, it’s a good idea for you to talk to him or her about the various tests to understand them better. The obvious differences are whether you see an image or an EKG. But you don’t want to settle for those obvious differences. You have to understand why one option is better than another and the person who should be giving you this advice is your cardiologist. It’s usually the cardiologist, or specialist, who makes the call. Nuclear stress tests cost a bundle, especially when compared to the treadmill test. The radioisotopes used in the nuclear test will disintegrate in roughly a week. So if you’re not comfortable with having radioactivity injected into your body, then see about the treadmill/EKG test. Nuclear stress tests actually stress people out, mainly because of the radioactive dye that must be injected into their veins. This is an understandable concern even though the dosage is very low. There are annual limits for radioactive exposure that apply to all people. Alternatives are available. Just tell your physician and they will tell you what else you can do.