Stress tests are exercise tests performed on treadmills for diagnostic purposes aiming to assess how well your heart functions under stress during physical activity. If you or your loved one is about to go through it, we understand the urge to know how to interpret readings and what to do if the stress test results are abnormal (or deviate from normal). Stay with us till the end to have your query answered.

What Does It Mean To Fail A Stress Test?

It is quite different from the tests you take in college. Failing a stress test is when the heart is unable to reach or sustain the target pumping rate during the exercise phase.

One may fail the stress test set for your heart due to the:

  • Joint pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Underlying heart conditions like coronary artery disease.

Decoding Abnormal Results

During this procedure, cardiologists observe and record several vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rhythm. Along with that, they also monitor deviations from normal reactions to physical stress like chest pain or dizziness. Abnormal results mean there is an underlying heart condition, like coronary artery disease, that needs further investigation or treatment. In some cases, it may also indicate arterial blockages, elevating the risk of a heart attack.

Normal or Negative Results

According to Dr. M. Usman Khan, awarded with fellowship status by the American College of Cardiology (ACP), a stress test is concluded to be normal or negative if your heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rhythm fall within a healthy range. Additionally, it shows no signs of reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.

What Should Be The Next Step After Abnormal Stress Test Results?

Firstly, do not panic. The route of action after an abnormal stress test reading depends on the specific abnormalities detected along with your medical history.

Once your cardiologist deduces that the values are sub-par, they will order additional tests, such as a coronary angiogram, to determine the extent and location of potential blockages. Depending on those results, they may recommend lifestyle changes, support with medication, or further procedures to address underlying conditions affecting your heart function.

If the stress test abnormalities are attributed to factors like an irregular heartbeat, further tests may be necessary.

  • Echocardiogram: This procedure is noninvasive and uses sound waves to project images of your heart on the screen. This test helps doctors assess the structure and function of your heart and jot down any abnormalities.
  • Cardiac CT or MRI: These imaging tests are deemed necessary to provide detailed images of your heart along with the blood vessels. This aids professionals in evaluating blood flow and identifying blockages or other abnormalities of any sort.

Signs Indicating the Need for a Stress Test

Cardiologists recommend a stress test in the case when you are at risk for or are currently exhibiting symptoms of heart disease. These may include the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Family history of heart disease.

Closing Note

Having the right knowledge about when and why a stress test is needed is crucial for maintaining heart health. It does not really matter whether the outcome is a ‘fail,’ ‘abnormal,’ or ‘normal.’ The main thing is to have valuable insights into your heart’s condition. If you have further questions, contact Epic Heart and Vascular Center at 17070 Red Oak Dr # 405, Houston, TX 77090. Call Houston at (832) 432-1951 or Willowbrook at (832) 952-1951 for help; we are here to assist you in all possible ways!