A stress test can be used to test for heart disease. Stress tests are tests performed by a doctor and/or trained technician to determine the amount of stress that your heart can manage before developing either an abnormal rhythm or evidence of ischemia (not enough blood flow to the heart muscle). The most commonly performed stress test is the exercise stress test.
Why would my doctor order a stress test?
- Determine if there is adequate blood flow to your heart during increasing levels of activity
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your heart medications to control angina and ischemia
- Determine the likelihood of having coronary heart disease and the need for further evaluation
- Check the effectiveness of procedures done to improve blood flow within the heart vessels in people with coronary heart disease
- Identify abnormal heart rhythms
- Help you develop a safe exercise program
Preparation before your stress test
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for exercise (i.e. walking shoes, walking
- Fast 2 hours prior to testing
- Hold all Beta-Blockers, Calcium-Channel Blockers for 24 hours prior to testing (see list
What can I expect?
To prepare you for a stress test, a medical assistant will gently clean 10 small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an EKG monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
Before you start exercising, the medical assistant will perform an EKG to measure your heart rate at rest and will take your blood pressure.
You will begin to exercise by walking on a treadmill. The rate of exercise or degree of difficulty will gradually increase every three minutes. You will be asked to exercise until you feel exhausted.
At regular intervals, the staff will ask how you are feeling. Please tell them if you feel chest, arm, or jaw pain or discomfort, short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, or any other unusual symptoms. It is normal for your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and perspiration to increase during the test. The doctor will watch for any symptoms or changes on the EKG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped.
After the test you will walk slowly for a short period to cool down. Your heart rate, blood pressure and EKG will continue to be monitored until the levels begin returning to normal.
Although the appointment typically lasts about 30 minutes, the actual exercise time is usually between seven and 12 minutes, but could be more depending on your physical conditioning.
Ask your doctor if you have any questions about the exercise stress test.