A stress test, also called an exercise stress test, shows how your heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster, an exercise stress test can reveal problems with blood flow within your heart.
A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored.
Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have signs or symptoms of coronary artery disease or an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The test may also guide treatment decisions, measure the effectiveness of treatment or determine the severity of a heart condition.
How to prepare:
- No caffeine 24 hour prior to your test.
- No betablocker medications the morning of test.
- Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes
During a stress test:
Our technician will place electrodes on your chest, legs and arms. Some areas may need to be shaved to help them stick. The electrodes have wires connected to an electrocardiogram machine, which records the electrical signals that trigger your heartbeats. A cuff on your arm checks your blood pressure during the test. As the test progresses, the exercise gets more difficult. You can use the railing on the treadmill for balance. Don't hang on tightly, as this may skew the results.
You continue exercising until your heart rate has reached a set target or until you develop symptoms that don't allow you to continue. These signs and symptoms may include:
- Moderate to severe chest pain
- Severe shortness of breath
- Abnormally high or low blood pressure
- An abnormal heart rhythm
- Certain changes in your electrocardiogram
- You may stop the test anytime you're too uncomfortable to continue exercising.