While many know that heart disease is the number one killer of women, what most don’t know is that this is because many women fail to undergo the testing that leads to early detection. As with most conditions, early detection of heart disease, and the resulting treatment, has the potential to prevent a deadly heart attack.
An echocardiogram is a test that checks the heart by using sound waves to produce a graphic outline of your heart’s movement. A stress echocardiogram incorporates an echocardiogram to determine how the heart muscle responds to the stress of exercise. The test begins by taking a resting echocardiogram. The second part of the test moves you from the exam table to the treadmill.
To get the most accurate picture of your heart’s performance, it is examined under stress – while walking on a treadmill, electrical leads continuously analyze your heart’s rate and rhythm and your blood pressure response is monitored . Testing the heart under these conditions yields results that are more accurately applicable to the life conditions that often cause heart attacks: physical and emotional stress. After you reach your age adjusted target heart rate, another echocardiogram will immediately be taken, providing a visual of the heart’s performance.
The images generated by the ultrasound show how the muscle of your heart contracts allowing your physician to judge the heart’s vigor and symmetry. In addition, the echocardiogram will allow your doctor to detect other possible problems such as coronary artery disease, lesions of the aorta, fluid around the heart, valvular heart disease, and tumors or holes in the heart.
The test is simple, non-intrusive and is highly recommended if you experience symptoms of heart disease including shortness of breath, chest pains, an irregular heartbeat, or have other risk factors like diabetes, high cholesterol,high blood pressure, smoking or family history of heart disease. For a full breakdown of the test steps and additional information, click here.