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A Little Extra Stress Could Save Your Life

heart healthWhile having an excess of stress in your life can adversely affect your health, the stress tests performed by cardiologists have nothing to do with meeting work deadlines or preparing for a visit from your in-laws.

Thallium stress tests, also known as nuclear stress tests, are performed by cardiologists to check for normal blood flow in the arteries leading to your heart. A heart attack occurs when build up in arteries leads to a complete blockage, preventing blood from reaching the heart. By finding blockages early on, cardiologists can reopen arterial passageways and help prevent future cardiac arrest.

This diagnostic test is called a “stress test” because it is designed to place an abnormal level of stress on your heart to see how it responds. Stress in thallium testing comes in the form of a treadmill which patients walk, jog or run on. Patients with mobility issues can also be tested on a stationary bike or by other means.

During the stress test, a doctor monitors the patient’s heart rate, increasing the treadmill speed and incline until a maximum heart rate has been reached and sustained for several minutes. The entire “stress” portion of the test usually lasts about 15 minutes.

Before and after the exercising, doctors may take images of your heart using a nuclear camera. Images produced by this special camera show the flow of blood in and around heart muscles, which can indicate an overall strength or weakness of the heart.

The test is known as a thallium test because thallium, an isotope that clings to heart muscles, is given to patients before doctors take pictures of their heart. The thallium is what actually allows doctors to see where any potential blockages may be occurring in the heart.

When a doctor asks you to schedule a stress test with thallium, they will also advise you on how to prepare for the test. Caffeine and certain medications cannot be taken 24 hours leading up to a stress test to ensure that the thallium stress test results best represent your heart’s actual condition.

Though it is a relatively simple procedure, thallium stress test results can help to diagnose conditions such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias and other disorders. Identifying these threats early is key in receiving preventative treatment before serious damage is caused.

If your doctor has recommended you receive thallium stress testing, contact one of our cardiologists to schedule an appointment today.

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