An exercise stress test is a screening tool to test the effect of exercise on your heart.
You will walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bicycle while the electrical activity of your heart is measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood pressure readings are taken. This will measure your heart's reaction to your body's increased need for oxygen.
The test continues until:
You will continue to be monitored for 10 - 15 minutes after exercising, or until your heart rate returns to baseline.
Tell your doctor if you are taking sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and have taken a dose within the past 24 hours. This is necessary because nitroglycerin, which is sometimes given during a stress test to relieve chest pain, should not be given to a person who has recently taken Viagra. The combination can cause a serious drop in blood pressure.
Electrodes (conductive patches) will be placed on your chest to record the heart's activity. The preparation of the electrode sites on your chest may produce a mild burning or stinging sensation.
The blood pressure cuff on your arm will be inflated every few minutes, producing a squeezing sensation that may feel tight. Baseline measurements of heart rate and blood pressure will be taken before exercise starts.
You will start walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle. The pace and incline of the treadmill (or the pedaling resistance) will gradually be increased.
Rarely, people experience the following during the test:
An exercise test is most often done to evaluate for coronary artery disease.
Reasons why an exercise stress test may be performed include:
There may be other reasons why your health care provider requests this test.
Normally, heart rate increases in proportion to the workload. Your endurance levels should be appropriate for your age and conditioning level.
Abnormal results may indicate:
Stress tests are generally safe. Some patients may have chest pain or may faint or collapse. A heart attack or dangerous irregular rhythm is rare.
Persons who are likely to have such complications are usually already known to have weak hearts, so they are not given this test.
A stress test is less accurate in young or middle-aged women with symptoms that are not typical of heart disease.
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