What is a Stress Test?
A stress test helps your doctor determine how well your heart handles an increased workload. By measuring blood flow to the heart, the test can reveal if you are at risk for a heart attack. The test is performed in a controlled environment where heart rate, rhythm and blood pressure are monitored throughout the duration of the test.
Why Are Stress Tests Needed?
Stress tests can help:
- Identify causes of chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and light-headedness
- Check the effectiveness of certain procedures or treatments
- Create a safe exercise plan
- Identify any heart rhythm changes that are experienced during exercise
- Determine your risk of heart disease or other related conditions
When Should You Consider a Stress Test?
It’s important to note that your doctor may recommend a stress test for a variety of reasons. It is a good idea to ask your doctor about having a stress test if you:
- Are a smoker
- Have a family history of heart disease
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have diabetes
- Are overweight
- Are experiencing chest pains
What Should I Expect During a Stress Test?
A technician will first monitor your blood flow while at rest, and then again as you exercise on a treadmill. If you cannot exercise, your doctor may give you a medication that makes your heart respond as if you were exercising. Once the test is complete, your doctor will compare the two test results and discuss with you how the results relate to your health.
What Are the Risks of Having a Stress Test?
An exercise stress test is noninvasive and very safe. The test will be monitored by one or more medical professionals who will stop the test if:
- You develop chest pain
- Your blood pressure reaches a level of concern
- The ECG shows that your heart isn’t receiving enough oxygen
- You experience severe shortness of breath
- You have another symptom preventing you from finishing the test
How Do I Prepare for a Stress Test?
Your doctor will provide complete instructions about how to prepare for a stress test, but general tips include:
Nothing to eat or drink prior to your appointment
Check with your cardiologist and take appropriate medications
Avoid coffee or caffeine
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