How Often Should You Have a Stress Test Done?

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How often your doctor recommends a stress test depends partly on your risk level for heart disease. If you’re at low risk and show no symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, the American College of Physicians has concluded that stress tests aren’t needed.

Stress tests can have false-positive results, inaccurately indicating that there’s a problem when in reality, none exists. False-positives lead to unnecessary testing, higher insurance costs, and patient anxiety.

Who’s at low risk? If you’re young and healthy, don’t have a family history of heart disease, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet, your risk is low.

Risk factors for heart disease

However, if you have any of the symptoms below, and especially if you have two or more, you’re at an elevated risk for heart disease. If several of the conditions describe you, you’re at an even higher risk.

If you’re at elevated risk of heart disease, your physician reviews your medical history and gathers information on recent symptoms to determine when a stress test is warranted.

If you don’t have overt symptoms but have two or more risk factors for heart disease and have never had a stress test, your physician may recommend the test in order to establish baseline data.

Nuclear stress test data could reveal that you do indeed have a heart condition. Early diagnosis and treatment saves lives.

Nuclear stress tests reveal the following critical information:

The test helps diagnose coronary artery disease and shows the extent of the disease. If you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition, the test shows how well the treatment is working.

It gives your physician information on the correct level of physical activity and exercise for you if you do have heart disease and helps guide treatment plans.

When you’re at higher risk

If you’re at an elevated risk but haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease, had a normal reading on your recent nuclear stress test, and haven’t experienced chest pain or other overt symptoms, you can likely wait two years before repeating the stress test. If you do have coronary artery disease and are at high risk but aren’t having symptoms, the same guideline applies.

If you have a stent and have no overt symptoms, your doctor may recommend a repeat stress test in two years. If you’ve had a bypass and are doing well, you may wait up to five years — depending on your unique situation. The United States Preventive Services Task Force suggests that decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Emergency situations

No matter your level of risk, if you do have overt symptoms such as shortness of breath and/or chest pain, your physician decides whether a stress test is the right call or whether you should proceed directly to an angiogram, an X-ray of your blood vessels, to see their condition.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may have you proceed directly to the hospital; you might be having a heart event if you’re enduring strong chest pain or shortness of breath.

Call or book an appointment online with Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants for expert, compassionate cardiovascular care.

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