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Every year, millions of Americans get a treadmill test. Their hearts are analyzed while they walk at a steadily increasing pace.
Doctors are checking their pulse rate, blood pressure, and the electrical activity of the heart ... looking for any irregularities.
The focus is the test itself, and on the time the patient is on the treadmill. But this latest study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the biggest indicators of risk may be after the test has ended.
The study found that irregular heartbeats in the first few minutes after the stress test were a better predictor of who would die of heart disease in the next five years than irregularities during the test itself.
It could completely change the way doctors administer the test. In the future, it could mean patients are monitored as much after they have been on the treadmill as they are while on it.
It could help them identify which patients are most at risk, and most in need of more tests and more treatment.