February is all about the heart (and no, it is not because of Valentine’s Day). February is National Heart Month, a part of an ongoing educational campaign to raise awareness of the causes and risk factors associated with heart disease. Why? Because heart disease is the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control 600,000 people die from heart disease each year. That equates to one out of every four deaths in the United States.
Raleigh Medical Group frequently works with patients who have heart disease, guiding them through their course of treatment and providing information on lifestyle changes, medication and test results. Many patients have questions about some of the tests conducted to help determine how well their heart is functioning. One of these is a standard stress test, sometimes called an exercise test or treadmill test. This test determines if there are any symptoms of heart disease. Because these symptoms do not always occur when the heart is at rest, a patient’s a patient’s heart rate must be monitored during exercise. This enables us to determine how hard the heart has to work in order to provide the blood and oxygen needed during exercise. The stress test is important because it can detect changes in blood pressure and symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
During a stress test, a patient is connected to EKG equipment that will monitor his or her heart rate. The patient then walks slowly on a treadmill. The treadmill speed is gradually increased to monitor how the heart and blood pressure respond to physical activity. A comparison is drawn between the patient’s ability to exercise versus the ability considered normal for someone of similar age. If a patient doesn’t do well, this is not always an indicator of heart disease; there may be other causes, such as anemia, poor general fitness or lung disease.
This is one of many reasons why Raleigh Medical Group seeks long-term professional relationships with its patients: becoming familiar with a patient’s medical history enables the providers to evaluate stress test results in context with other possible health risk factors the patient may have.
Do you need a stress test? Only your physician can determine if you are a candidate for a stress test. However, keep in mind that if you have a high risk of heart disease or chest pain you should speak with your physician. Remember, risk factors for heart disease include: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease.