What is a stress test?
A stress test helps determine how your heart responds to stress. During the test, you will walk on a treadmill at different levels of intensity, while your blood pressure and heart rate are monitored.
Who needs a stress test?
You may need a stress test if you show signs of having heart trouble, such as chest pain or an abnormal EKG.
What to expect before the test
You will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight the day of the test. Exclude stimulants from your diet 24 hours before the test. These include coffee, tea, soda pop, chocolate and if you are a man, medication such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. Refrain from smoking 24 hours in advance of the test. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The procedure may take up to 3 hours.
What happens during the test?
Areas of your chest will be cleaned and possibly shaved. To monitor your heart during the test, electrodes will be placed on your chest and attached to a monitor called an electrocardiograph
, or ECG. You may be given a medicine during the test to determine if there is any decreased circulation in the muscle. If you are unable to exercise, you may be given a medicine to stress your heart.
Before, during, and after the test, the ECG will be recording and your blood pressure taken at different intervals. You will be asked to begin walking on the treadmill. Depending on the degree of difficulty, you may walk slowly or very fast.
The technician helping with the test will always be watching the monitors and how you are doing. You will be asked how you are feeling at regular intervals. If you begin to feel light-headed, dizzy, or in pain, tell the technician. After the test, you will cool down for a bit to get your heart rate, blood pressure, and ECG as close to normal as possible.
You should follow up with your doctor to go over your stress test results to determine what action should be taken next.