Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Not surprisingly, getting an early diagnosis and monitoring heart disease are the best ways to prevent serious complications — and even death. 

A cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) is one of the most reliable and effective tools for diagnosing heart-related problems. At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Ashish Pal, MD, uses a specific type of CPET that can evaluate lung health, too. 

If you have a CPET in your future, here’s what to expect.

The important role of testing

Most adults have had an electrocardiogram (EKG), even if they haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease. An EKG provides your doctor a snapshot of your heart’s electrical activity, and it can be useful in identifying some heart issues — particularly those that cause irregular rhythms.

But even though an EKG is useful, it’s limited in what it can show, due to the fact that most EKGs are performed while you’re resting and your heart isn’t being physically stressed. 

Many heart problems only become obvious when the demands on the heart increase, like they do when you’re physically active. CPET is designed to evaluate your heart’s activity during physical activity, along with its responses when those physical demands are increased. 

Unlike a traditional EKG stress test that looks mainly at the major vessels of the heart, the CPET technology used by Dr. Pal evaluates your heart function, lung function and capacity, tolerance for activity, and issues related to muscle and metabolic activity. 

That means he can use the results to identify many types of heart and health problems, and he can also use the test to ensure current treatment plans are still effective and on track.

What to expect during a CPET

In the past, nearly every stress test used a treadmill to gradually increase the activity demands on the heart. Newer techniques use a stationary bicycle, which has advantages over a treadmill.

Because you’re exercising, you should wear comfortable clothing for your test. Dr. Pal and our team provide you with a list of instructions for preparing for your test, including whether it’s OK to eat or drink before your test and whether you should take or delay your medications.

Just before your test begins, Dr. Pal takes baseline readings of your heart rate, blood pressure, and other health indicators. He uses these results to compare with readings taken during and after your test to help provide a clear picture of your cardiovascular and lung health. 

After your baseline measurements, you begin pedaling on the stationary bicycle, gradually increasing the speed of the bike. Your test is monitored by one of our team members at all times. Your heart rate and breathing are monitored during the test, as well.

At the end of the test, we take an additional set of readings to see how your heart responds at different stress levels.

Most tests take 1-2 hours, with the exercise portion only lasting about 8-14 minutes. The length of your test depends on whether Dr. Pal wants to measure your complete cardiovascular and lung function, or just some of those systems. Afterward, you can return to your regular routine. 

Care customized for your needs

CPET plays an essential role in diagnosing and treating heart disease, and it can also help monitor for disease in people at an increased risk for heart, lung, or metabolic problems. 

With practices in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, Dr. Pal and our team at Vein & Cardiovascular Center offer comprehensive testing for patients with heart disease, along with patient-centered treatment plans aimed at improving cardiovascular and overall health. 

To learn more about CPET and other testing services we offer, call the office nearest you or book an appointment online today.

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