Having a healthy heart is essential for getting the most out of life at every age. One of the ways to monitor your heart health is with special testing designed to “see” how your heart is working.
An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is one common test used to monitor your heart’s electrical activity. But depending on your unique health needs, a stress echocardiogram may also play an important role in evaluating your heart’s health and activity.
At TLC Medical Group, Anthony B. Lewis, MD, FACC, and his team use stress echocardiograms to diagnose heart problems and to monitor the effectiveness of specific treatments. If Dr. Lewis has recommended an echocardiogram for you, here’s what you should know about this very important test.
Echocardiograms: The basics
You may have heard someone refer to an echocardiogram by its nickname: cardiac stress test. That’s kind of an unfortunate nickname, because it makes an echocardiogram sound more uncomfortable — or stressful — than is the case.
The term “stress” actually refers to the physical stress that happens when you exercise. An echocardiogram uses ultrasound to see how your heart responds to the physical stress of activity. (It’s also referred to as an exercise stress test.)
Actually, an echocardiogram isn’t uncomfortable at all. The test itself uses a special handheld device called a transducer to send ultrawaves painlessly through your skin. Those waves bounce off your heart, vessels, and other structures, transmitting data to a computer that “translates” that data into real-time videos and images of your heart and the veins and arteries around it.
To evaluate how your heart responds to physical activity, ultrasound images are made after you walk on a treadmill for a specific amount of time. While you’re on the treadmill, Dr. Lewis and his team monitor your vital signs, including your heart activity, so you can feel safe and confident about the test. If you’re not healthy enough for physical activity, Dr. Lewis can inject a special short-acting agent that mimics the effects of physical activity.
That’s how a stress echocardiogram is done. Now, here’s why they’re done.
Dr. Lewis uses stress echocardiograms to:
- Evaluate your heart’s structure and function
- Gain a detailed look at the arteries and veins
- Evaluate circulation inside and around your heart
- Examine your heart for structural defects
- Look for tumors or other growths
- Evaluate the function of your heart valves
- Check the size of your heart
- Measure the thickness of your heart’s walls
- Diagnose or monitor congenital heart defects
- Find the cause of rhythm abnormalities or chest pain
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or you’ve had a heart attack, he can use an echocardiogram to:
- Look for heart damage
- Evaluate disease progression
- Monitor the effectiveness of treatment
- Set safe goals for activity and exercise
Echocardiograms are completely noninvasive and painless, and there’s no downtime afterward. Once your evaluation is over, you can go right back to your daily routine.
Expert care for your healthy heart
At TLC Hearts, our entire team makes your heart health our priority. To learn more about stress echocardiograms and other evaluations we use to keep your heart healthy, call 772-200-3840 or book an appointment online with Dr. Lewis today.