What is a Stress Test?
A stress test also called an “exercise test” or “treadmill test,” shows how your heart works when it is beating fast and hard. An exercise stress test may reveal problems with blood flow within your heart, which may not be detected in the resting state.
A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and breathing are monitored. If you are unable to exercise (or in certain circumstances), you’ll receive a drug that mimics the effects of exercise.
Stress tests may be ordered to check for problems that can happen when the heart works hard.
Reasons for Ordering a Stress Test
- To see if you have coronary heart disease, heart failure, or another heart condition – Coronary heart disease is a condition that puts you at risk for a heart attack and other types of heart disease. Some people have symptoms of coronary heart disease only when they exercise. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump well.
- To asses how well your heart works after heart surgery.
- For evaluating why you are experiencing chest pain, trouble breathing, or other symptoms.
- To see if you can safely exercise after a heart attack.
You may be asked not to eat, drink or smoke for approximately 3 hours before a stress test. You may need to avoid caffeine the day before and the day of the test.
Ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to continue taking all of your prescription and over-the-counter medications (such as Beta-blockers) before the test, as they might interfere with your response to exercise and preclude accurate evaluation.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes for the test.
If you use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing problems, bring it to the test.
Duration – The entire test usually takes less than thirty minutes, and most people walk on the treadmill for 6 to 12 minutes.
- When the heart pumps fast and hard, some patients may experience an abnormal heartbeat, trouble breathing, dizziness or may faint.
- If medications are used, they can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, or nausea.