ECG and Stress test/TMT- A Guide

Did you know that Indians are known to be more prone to heart attacks?  In 2016, heart diseases accounted for 28.1% of total deaths compared to 15.2% in 1990 in India.

Given the rise in cases of people suffering from heart attacks and heart diseases due to several factors, it’s the need of the hour to know more about the preventive measures to lead a healthy life. 

Are there any preventative tests available for heart disease?

Yes, there are. There are several tests available for diagnosing heart disease. After taking your history and performing a physical examination, your doctor may recommend one or more of these tests to get a better picture of your health. Some of these tests include electrocardiogram (ECG), stress test (TMT), Holter monitoring, echocardiogram (ECHO), cardiac catheterization (angiography), etc.

What is ECG?

Electrocardiogram or ECG is a device used to record the electrical signals in the heart each time it beats with the help of sensors attached to your skin. It is very simple, painless, and non-invasive. It can be used to detect:

  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Chest pain or a heart attack
  • Whether you have had a previous heart attack
  • How well certain heart disease treatments, such as a pacemaker, are working

How can an ECG be helpful?

ECG gives a lot of details to your doctor about the following things:

  • Heart rate- An ECG helps measure a speedy heart rate (tachycardia), a prolonged heart rate (bradycardia), or a pulse too feeble or irregular.
  • Heart attack- An ECG is usually used for suspecting a heart attack. It is also helpful in showing evidence of previous heart attacks, the part of the heart that is damaged, and the extent of that damage.
  • Heart rhythm- An arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat can occur due to issues in the heart’s electrical system. An ECG test can easily detect this.

What is a TMT test?

It is a stress test that focuses on inducing physical stress and requires you to exercise (usually walking on a treadmill) while your heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing are monitored. The added stress on the heart may reveal some problems which may not be obvious otherwise.

Why is a stress test being performed on me?

There can be some reasons why your doctor recommended this test for you, the most common one being:

  • Diagnosing arrhythmias- When your heart’s electrical system doesn’t work properly, it can cause arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats; a stress test can help determine it.
  • Diagnosing coronary heart disease- Coronary arteries are the major arteries responsible for providing your heart with oxygen, blood, and nutrients. It can lead to coronary heart disease when they get damaged due to the buildup of deposits (plaques). The presence of this can be diagnosed using a stress test.
  • Diagnosing the heart for any problems before surgery- In most cases, doctors use this test to determine whether you are fit for surgery.
  • Finding treatment options for heart diseases- The result of a stress test helps your doctor determine which treatment plan to continue with and if a current treatment plan is working or not.

What happens before, during, and after the stress test?

Before beginning the test, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and the intensity level you usually exercise. This helps the doctor figure out the appropriate level of exercise for you. The test takes roughly 15 minutes and involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike with sensors or electrodes attached to different body parts to measure your heartbeat. A cuff is put on your arm to measure blood pressure, and sometimes you are asked to breathe into a tube while exercising so that the doctor can measure how well you can breathe. As you continue exercising, the difficulty level increases, and you only stop when your heart rate reaches a certain level, or you are unable to continue because of several reasons such as fatigue, severe shortness of breath, dizziness, moderate to severe chest pain, an abnormal heart rhythm, etc. If you cannot exercise during the test, you might be given a medicine that will mimic the effects that exercise will have on your heart.

After the test, you are required to stand still for a while and then asked to lie down while your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing continue to be monitored by your doctor. 

How to prepare for the stress test?

Like many tests out there that require you to follow some guidelines before they are conducted, stress test also has a few. They are:

  • Don’t eat or drink anything except water for 4 hours before the test.
  • Don’t have anything with caffeine for 12 hours before the test.
  • Ask your doctor before taking heart medications on the day of the test.
  • If you require an inhaler for breathing, do bring it to the test.

Are there any risks involved in the stress test?

Though it is a relatively safe test, some rare complications may occur. They are:

  • Arrhythmias- Irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias can occur during the test and tend to go away once you stop exercising.
  • Low blood pressure- It may happen while you are exercising or just after you have stopped exercising due to a drop in your blood pressure causing you to feel dizzy or faint. It will go away once you stop exercising.
  • Heart attack- It’s extremely rare

Thus, it is important to undergo these tests in a hospital with a Cathlab and 24×7 Cardiologist facility for immediate management of any complications.

If you experience any symptoms related to any heart disease, don’t delay consulting your doctor. Receiving the proper medical treatment and care is the only way to steer clear of any related medical complications.

To book an appointment, contact us at +91-9540 114 114.