Despite advances in medicine, heart disease remains the number one cause of death among Americans. Factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and obesity increase the chances of developing heart disease.
Roughly 84 million people in the United States suffer from heart disease in some form. Preventive care is one of the best ways to manage your risk. Undergoing a cardiac stress test can help you understand your heart disease risk.
Through her Southern California practice, Cardiovascular Care Center, cardiologist Shahrzad Shareghi specializes in comprehensive cardiovascular care. She offers valuable tools that help determine heart disease risk, so you can take the necessary steps keep your heart healthy. She may recommend cardiac stress testing, a powerful diagnostic tool that provides valuable insight into how your heart functions.
What is a stress test?
The goal of a stress test is to determine if you have artery blockage that could spell trouble. During this test, you walk on a treadmill at an increasing pace to force your heart to work harder. As you move, an electrocardiogram (ECG) tracks the electric rhythm of your heart. Dr. Shareghi keeps track of your vitals, including your blood pressure, and makes note of any symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.
Dr. Shareghi is on the lookout for signs that you may have heart disease. Experiencing an abnormal spike in blood pressure or bothersome symptoms like chest discomfort may point to coronary artery disease (CAD).
While the stress test is a powerful diagnostic tool, it’s not used alone to diagnose CAD. Instead, Dr. Shareghi uses it along with other tests and medical information to get a complete picture of your heart disease risk.
What is coronary artery disease?
Coronary artery disease occurs when cholesterol accumulates on the walls of your arteries. This creates a plaque that becomes hard and causes the main coronary arteries that branch off from the heart to become stiff and narrow, reducing blood flow. Having CAD is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
What insight does a cardiac stress test provide?
If you visit Dr. Shareghi with symptoms like unexplained chest pain or shortness of breath, she may order a cardiac stress test to help determine whether your symptoms are related to CAD or something else. If you have risk factors like high cholesterol or obesity, along with an abnormal stress test, it may point strongly to CAD as the culprit.
However, if you have symptoms and your cardiac stress test is normal, the chances of having CAD are lower. Under those circumstances, Dr. Shareghi may want to order additional tests to completely evaluate your heart function and rule out CAD.
It’s important to know that having a normal stress test doesn’t necessarily put you in the clear. A stress test detects arteries that are severely clogged and narrow. Therefore, you may still have mild narrowing, putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Shareghi can provide a comprehensive assessment so that you understand your risk, and can take steps to improve your heart health and lower the chances of heart disease complications.
It’s often wise to schedule follow-up testing, particularly if you’re having unexplained symptoms or have factors that put you at risk for heart disease. A cardiac stress test helps identify coronary arteries that are 70% or more blocked. You are still at risk of having a heart attack if you have less than 70% blockage. Work with your provider to determine the scope of your heart health.
This year, make your heart health a number one priority. To learn more and schedule a stress test, call one of our two Southern California offices or book your appointment online.