A stress test, also called an exercise stress test, shows how your heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster, an exercise stress test can reveal problems with blood flow within your heart.
A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. Or you’ll receive a drug that mimics the effects of exercise.
Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have signs or symptoms of coronary artery disease or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
A stress test can help:
- Guide treatment decisions
- Determine how well heart treatment is working
- Diagnose the severity of an existing heart condition
A Holter blood pressure device is worn by the patient for twenty-four hours. The device records the changes in blood pressure over a 24-hour period. Holter monitoring of blood pressure evaluates the patient’s blood pressure levels for 24 hours, in the normal environment and activities of the patient outside the doctor’s office. The investigation is necessary in case of elevated blood pressure readings to rule out or confirm the diagnosis of hypertension and to evaluate treatment outcomes of previously diagnosed hypertension.
During the investigation, a blood pressure cuff will be attached to the upper arm and a recorder is attached to the hip level. Usually the recorder registers blood pressure every 30 minutes during the day and every 2 hours at night. Generally, the investigation is well tolerated. Automatic cuff inflation can be cause an unpleasant pressure feeling in patients with particularly high blood pressure values. It is not recommended to make large-scale movements with the arm that is equipped with the cuff and sleep or make the arm wet (take a bath or shower, etc.).
A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that records the heart’s rhythm. It’s used to detect or determine the risk of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
A Holter monitor test may be done if a traditional electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) doesn’t provide enough details about the heart’s condition. If the irregular heartbeats are infrequent, a longer term monitor called an event recorder may be needed.
A health care provider may recommend a Holter monitor if you have:
- Signs and symptoms of an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Unexplained fainting
- A heart condition that increases the risk of arrhythmias
An arrhythmia is any change in rate or rhythm of your heartbeat (irregular heartbeat). Your heart may beat too quickly (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia) or in an irregular pattern.
Types of Arrhythmia
There are many types of arrhythmias, ranging from a few skipped beats that are mostly just a nuisance to a racing heart that can lead to long-term damage.
The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, or Afib, a fast and irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.
- Chest discomfort
- Fast or slow heart rate
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Some people with arrhythmia don’t experience any symptoms. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the condition to be discovered during a routine physical.
Endocarditis is a life-threatening inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves. This lining is called the endocardium.
Endocarditis is usually caused by an infection. Bacteria, fungi or other germs get into the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart. Things that make you more likely to get endocarditis are artificial heart valves, damaged heart valves or other heart defects.
Without quick treatment, endocarditis can damage or destroy the heart valves. Treatments for endocarditis include medications and surgery.
Amyloidosis is a rare organ debilitating disease that causes organs and tissues, including the heart, kidneys, skin, stomach, large and small intestines, nerves and liver to thicken and eventually lose function.
Signs You Should Get Help for Amyloidosis
Amyloidosis symptoms depend on which area of your body is affected. Symptoms may include the following:
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Low exercise tolerance
- Irregular heartbeat
- Skin changes, such as easy bruising
- Swelling of the arms, legs and tongue
- Weight loss
An aortic aneurysm is a bulging section in the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from your heart into your chest and abdomen. An aneurysm that grows too large may burst and cause bleeding. An aortic aneurysm rupture can be life-threatening.
Types of Aortic Aneurysm:
Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the chest and are usually caused by high blood pressure. Symptoms include pain in your chest or upper back, difficulty breathing and trouble swallowing.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in the abdomen and are usually caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Symptoms include pain in your back, buttocks, groin or legs.
Men who have smoked and people with a family history of aneurysms are at greater risk of developing one.
Aneurysms can develop before causing symptoms, so screenings are recommended for people from the age of 65 to 75.
Atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia, is a serious condition that causes an irregular, and often fast, heartbeat. This makes the heart pump blood less effectively, may weaken the heart and potentially lead to stroke or heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation can be caused by a number of factors, including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease.
Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms:
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation may include the following:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Some heart murmurs are harmless (innocent). An innocent heart murmur is not a sign of heart disease and doesn’t need treatment. Other heart murmurs may be a sign of a serious heart condition. Tests are needed to check the heart and heart valves. Heart murmur treatment depends on the cause.
- Harmless (innocent) heart murmurs usually don’t cause any other symptoms.
- Symptoms of worrisome heart murmurs depend on the cause. Heart murmur symptoms may include:
- Blue or gray fingernails or lips
- Chest pain
- Cough that doesn’t go away
- Swollen liver
- Swollen neck veins
- Heavy sweating with little or no activity
- In infants, poor appetite and lack of growth
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling or sudden weight gain
Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the thin, saclike tissue surrounding the heart (pericardium). Pericarditis often causes sharp chest pain. The chest pain occurs when the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other.
Chest pain is the most common symptom of pericarditis. It usually feels sharp or stabbing. However, some people have dull, achy or pressure-like chest pain.
Pericarditis pain usually occurs behind the breastbone or on the left side of the chest. The pain may:
- Spread to the left shoulder and neck
- Get worse when coughing, lying down or taking a deep breath
- Get better when sitting up or leaning forward