Question: How is the effectiveness of stress tests different in men and women?
Answer: Questions about diagnosing heart disease are really ripe for the answering about women.
Because for years the standard stress test -- where we hooked up somebody with ECG leads, and we had them walk on a treadmill, and we watched their heart rate and blood pressure and electric cardiogram -- that was the test that we used most commonly, and it was far less accurate in women than men.
And we knew that and basically what doctors took away from that is they stopped using the test and depending on it in women.
Fortunately, a number of other tests that include imaging, such as echo or nuclear scans, have come along that have addressed many of those issues. So we're still left with the standard stress test because of hormones and a variety of other factors are not as accurate.
But the good news is that we have great stress tests that are equally accurate in men and women.
The kicker is that few women were in some of the early trials to understand, to help us understand, what the advantages and disadvantages and the strengths and weakness in each of these stress tests are.
You should ask your doctor if he's referring you to a center that interprets these tests, like the stress echo and stress nuclear scan, in a sex specific or gender specific manner. For instance, nuclear perfusion scans or sestamibi those, sometimes can give, to make it to be a false positive, meaning it's normal, but it looks abnormal if a woman has large breasts or is very heavy.
Now, we can get around that with technical considerations, but you need to know that the center that is interpreting your test is taking that into interpretation.
The good news really is there are great stress tests for men and women, they're equally accurate, and so there are a lot of options if you need that and your doctor refers you.
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