What is an exercise electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a simple and quick test to assess the health of the heart. In this test, healthcare workers place electrodes (small plastic patches that stick to the skin) on specific locations on the chest, arms and legs. The electrodes are connected to the ECG machine via ECG lead wires. Then, we can perform ECG measurements. The monitor will display the ECG. Natural electrical impulses coordinate the contractions of different parts of the heart to keep blood flowing properly. An electrocardiogram records these pulses to show how fast the heart beats, the rhythm of the heartbeat, and the strength and timing of the electrical impulses as they travel through different parts of the heart. Changes in the electrocardiogram can be a harbinger of many heart-related diseases.
An exercise ECG is used to assess the heart's response to stress or exercise. In this test, the ECG machine records our ECG while exercising on the treadmill or stationary bike and at certain points during the test the ECG will be tracked to compare the effects of increased stress on the heart. At the same time, the medical staff will regularly increase the treadmill incline and speed to increase the difficulty of the exercise during the test. In the case of a bicycle, we have to go faster to resist the added drag. In either case, we must keep exercising until we reach our target heart rate (as determined by the doctor based on the patient's age and physical condition), or until we are unable to continue due to fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, or other symptoms.
Why do you need an exercise ECG?
Some reasons why a doctor may order an exercise ECG include:
The attending physician believes we may have coronary artery disease (such as a blocked artery in the heart) and need to assess stress or exercise tolerance;
• Identify the sidelines of safe exercise before starting a cardiac rehabilitation program or when recovering from a heart attack (such as a myocardial infarction) or heart surgery;
• Assess heart rhythm and electrical activity during exercise;
• Assess heart rate and blood pressure during exercise or for other reasons;
What are the risks of an exercise ECG?
Is it dangerous to do an exercise ECG? Because the heart may experience a large amount of compound during the test, some people may experience some of the following:
• Chest pain
• heart attack
• irregular heartbeat
• Cardiac arrest
• Serious heart rhythm problems.
Depending on the specific medical condition, there may be other risks. Therefore, it is best to confirm the specific situation with your doctor before performing an exercise ECG. In addition, certain factors or conditions may interfere with or affect the results of an exercise ECG, including:
• A large meal before the test
• Caffeine before the test
• Smoking or using other tobacco products before the test
• Electrolyte imbalances, such as too much or too little potassium, magnesium, or calcium in the blood
• Taking certain medications, such as beta-blockers, may have difficulty raising heart rate to target levels
• Have valvular heart disease
How to prepare for exercise ECG?
Before taking the test, we must tell the doctor truthfully if:
o Unstable angina (uncontrollable chest pain)
o Severe heart valve disease (dysfunction of one or more heart valves)
o Severe heart failure
o History of recent heart attack (eg, myocardial infarction)
o Severe high blood pressure
o Uncontrolled irregular heartbeat
o Pericarditis (inflammation or infection of the sac surrounding the heart)
o Severe anemia (low red blood cell count)
o Wear a pacemaker
Exercise ECG process
An exercise ECG can be performed in an outpatient or hospital stay. Tests may vary based on our condition and our doctor's specific protocols. Typically, an exercise ECG follows this process:
1. Asked to remove items that may interfere with the test, asked to change into sick clothes and clean the skin;
2 Paste the electrode pads, connect the ECG leads, and enter the identity information.
3 The medical staff will help us put on the blood pressure cuff. The initial ECG and blood pressure readings are taken when we sit on the bike or stand up for exercise.
4 The doctor begins to teach how to walk on a treadmill or use a bicycle. If you start to experience any chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, extreme shortness of breath, nausea, headache, leg pain, or any other symptoms during exercise, it is imperative to inform your healthcare provider.
5 Begin exercising at the lowest level. The intensity of the exercise will gradually increase. The EKG machine will take EKG and blood pressure readings at intervals to measure how the heart and body respond to exercise.
6 The length of time we exercise depends on our target heart rate and our own endurance. Exercise duration is also an important part of stress test results. The test may be stopped if severe symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, nausea, severe shortness of breath, severe tiredness, or increased blood pressure occur.
7 After completing the exercise portion of the test, the healthcare worker will slow down to allow our body to "calm down" to avoid nausea or cramps caused by the sudden stop.
8 When exercise is completed and rest is performed, healthcare workers continue to monitor ECG and blood pressure until normal or near normal.
9 Once the ECG and blood pressure readings return to normal levels, the medical staff will remove the ECG electrodes and blood pressure cuff, and the test is over.
What happens after an exercise ECG?
In general, no special care is required after an exercise ECG. We may feel tired for a few hours or more after the test. Unless it's someone who doesn't normally exercise, we usually get back to normal within a few hours of an exercise ECG. If more than a day, or chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, we need to contact a doctor for examination.
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