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.
What Is an Exercise Stress Test?
The exercise stress test — also called a stress test, exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, or stress ECG — is used to provide information about how the heart responds beach dresses to exertion. It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while your electrocardiogram, heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored.
Why Do I Need a Stress Test?
Your doctor uses the stress test to:
• 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
What Are the Types of Stress Tests?
There are many different types of stress tests, including:
Treadmill stress test : As long as you can walk and have a normal ECG, this is normally the first stress test performed. You walk on a treadmill while being monitored to see how far you walk and if you develop chest pain or changes in your ECG that suggest that your heart is not getting enough blood.
Before your stress test:
- Do not eat or drink anything except water for four hours before the test.
- Do not drink or eat foods containing caffeine for 12 hours before the test. Caffeine will interfere with the results of your test.
- Do not take the following heart medications on the day of your test unless your doctor tells you otherwise, or if the medication is needed to treat chest discomfort the day of the test: Isosorbide dinitrate (for example, Isordil, Dilatrate SR); Isosorbide mononitrate (for example, ISMO, Imdur, Monoket); Nitroglycerin (for example, Deponit, Nitrostat, Nitro-bid). Your doctor may also ask you to stop taking other heart drugs on the day of your test. If you have any questions about your medications, ask your doctor. Do not discontinue any drug without first talking with your doctor.
- If you use an inhaler for your breathing, bring it to the test.