Heart Stress Tests: When To Have One

Heart Disease is the number one killer in women. What should you look out for--and when should you go in for tests? Malorie Maddox walks us through it.

Dr. Traci Jurrens, a cardiologist with Heart Consultants at Methodist Hospital says, "It's not an easy test. It's meant so you can't stay on it for hours and hours."

Dr. Jurrens walks Malorie Maddox through a typical stress test.

First, a list of questions. For example: Do you smoke? How old are you? Do you have high blood pressure? This helps determine if you are a high, intermediate, or low risk.

Stress Test

Then, wires are hooked to the chest for an echocardiogram. This allows doctors to take an inside look at the heart.

Dr. Jurrens says, "We're looking at how the heart walls are moving, they're functioning."

They take before photos and it's off to the treadmill. The treadmill speeds up every three minutes. Keep in mind it's an uphill trek.

Dr. Jurrens says, "In well-trained people the heart rate starts on the lower side and goes up slowly."

Malorie is 36. She doesn't smoke and doesn't take medication. Her target heart rate is 156.

It started rising. As doctors watch the heart rate, they are also checking your blood pressure as you go along.

How did Malorie do?

Dr. Jurrens says, "In general, over eight minutes is a good test. You went over 12 minutes which is excellent."

Stress Test

After you stop on the treadmill, patients quickly go back to the bed, turn on their side, and it's time for more echocardiogram pictures.

Dr. Jurrens says, "In a good heart test, the walls will come together. See, it's almost touching my finger which is good."

The entire process takes under thirty minutes.

Dr. Jurrens says age isn't the main indicator of when you should have a stress test done.

If you have:

  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Chest Discomfort
  • Fainting
  • Pressure in the Chest

"It's better to come in and get checked out than to wait it out at home." said Dr. Jurrens.

She also says their main focus right now if looking at patients in the intermediate risk group. They focus on them to either move them into the high risk-or low risk-groups.

In 2013, Methodist Health System performed over 15,000 cardiac diagnostic tests. More than 26,000 EKGs were performed.

General Statistics

  • Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.

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