Otherwise known as an exercise test or treadmill test, a stress test demonstrates how well your heart performs under pressure. During physical activity, your body needs more oxygen than it does when it is at rest. In response, your heart needs to pump more blood. The stress test illustrates if an adequate amount of blood has been pumped to the arteries that supply your heart. This test will also help you and your doctor understand what kind of exercise is safe for your body.
Why Do You Need a Stress Test?
If you have symptoms of a heart complication, including chest pain, dizziness, irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath, your doctor may recommend a stress test. This test may help determine if you have a heart condition, such as:
- Heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- Ischemic heart disease
Getting Ready for a Stress Test
Prior to your test:
- Ask your doctor if there are any medications you should stop taking.
- Do not drink beverages that contain caffeine, such as soda, coffee or tea, on the day of your test.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
What to Expect During a Stress Test
When you arrive for your stress test, a healthcare provider will inject a radioactive substance into one of your veins. This substance will help your doctor see how well blood is flowing into your heart. For about 15 to 45 minutes, you will recline and relax while the substance travels to your heart.
The doctor will then put electrodes on your chest, a blood pressure cuff on your arm and a pulse monitor on your finger to monitor your blood pressure and heart activity while your body is at rest and as you start to move.
During the actual test, you will walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike with increasing speed and intensity. You may also breathe into a tube for a few minutes as you exercise. Once the test is complete, you will rest while your results are evaluated.
Your doctor will evaluate several results, including your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and your level of fatigue.