Types of Stress Tests
One test you might have to do as a heart failure patient is a stress test. This is a test designed to help a cardiologist know if one of your coronary arteries is almost blocked to where you are at high risk for an impending heart attack. You may not have to have one of these tests, but many people with heart failure have coronary artery disease and could need this. The process can be done in two different ways which I will briefly explain.
The treadmill test
The first way is the more commonly know which is the treadmill test. You are hooked up to a heart monitor and put on a treadmill. You will then start walking with increasing difficulty until you reach the desired heart rate. Once you reach this, you will maintain it for a set amount of time while your heart is monitored. The doctor is looking for indications of not enough blood reaching parts of your heart. The test can be stopped if you feel short of breath or have any other issues that indicated heart problems.
Chemical stress test
The second test is one I wouldn’t personally want to do but is an option for those that have difficulty walking. It is a chemical stress test. With this one, you do not do the treadmill, but instead, you have a chemical injected into you that raises your heart rate. The reason I say I wouldn’t want to do this is that I don’t like the feeling of no control, but if I needed to do it, I would because I want to know the results. I have been told it does bring on a very intense feeling quickly, so if you do have this make sure you are prepared for it.
Better safe than sorry
I did recently ask my cardiologist about having a stress test. I have never had one and I felt like I should because I don’t want to wait for a heart attack to know something is wrong and it is too late, especially when we have a way to check that is simple and quick. I was told a stress test is not performed unless I show symptoms of a nearly blocked artery because there is new research that shows too many false positives on a stress test and many unnecessary heart catheterizations. I can understand the reasoning, but I personally would rather have a heart catheterization I don’t need than to wait until it’s too late.
One can’t help but wonder if some of the unnecessary heart catheterizations were doctors finding a way to do an extra procedure or misinterpreting what the data shows. I can understand where people would be upset about an unnecessary procedure, but when you get in a position where you would rather be safe than sorry, you may change how you feel about it.
Focus on the positive
If you do have a stress test, don’t let the chance of a false positive scare you off. Your doctor will more likely than not do what they think is best for you and try to take care of you. If you happen to be a false positive result, be happy you don’t have something wrong rather than focusing on the unnecessary procedure, because until your doctor does the procedure, they probably honestly don’t know you didn’t need it.
Do you use exercise to help manage your heart failure?