Everything You Need To Know About Stress Testing

Stress testing, sometimes called exercise stress testing, is a type of cardiovascular test that helps determine how well your heart functions during physical activity. The test involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. The EKG machine monitors your heart rate and rhythm during the test.

What Is a Stress Test Used For?

Stress testing is used to diagnose heart conditions, like coronary artery disease, and to evaluate your risk of a heart attack. The test can also be used to help determine the best treatment for you if you have been diagnosed with a heart condition.

Who Needs Stress Testing?

There are many reasons someone might need a stress test, including those who:

  • Have symptoms of a heart condition, such as chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Have risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease
  • Have been diagnosed with a heart condition and have been treated.

Additionally, you may be required to have stress testing for some careers, like military service or piloting an airplane.

What Should You Expect During a Stress Test?

The Mayo Clinic states that a stress test takes about an hour, which includes prep time and the test itself. They further explain that, during the test, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike at gradually increasing speeds and inclines for "about 15 minutes." The goal is to raise your heart rate above its maximum predicted rate.

Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure and EKG readings during the test and watch for changes in your symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Once you reach your target heart rate, the test is stopped, and you are allowed to rest for several minutes before the EKG readings are taken again.

After the stress test, you will be able to return to your normal activities unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Does a Stress Test Have Side Effects?

You may experience minor side effects after the stress test, such as muscle aches from exercise or anxiety from being hooked up to an EKG machine. However, they are usually temporary and will go away quickly.

Stress testing is an important diagnostic tool that can help you and your doctor determine the best course of action for you if you have a heart condition or are at risk for a heart attack. Knowing what you can expect during the test and the potential side effects can help you prepare for it and make you feel more comfortable during the procedure.

If you have any questions or concerns about stress testing, be sure to talk to your doctor.