Stress tests, also known as exercise or treadmill tests, are usually recommended by a cardiologist for people who show symptoms related to possible heart problems. It involves walking on a treadmill or using a stationary bike at progressive speeds while your breathing, blood pressure, heart rhythm, and heart rate are being monitored. This helps the doctor to determine how well a person’s heart is functioning during physical activity. It can also help diagnose different types of heart conditions and even show how the heart responds when working its hardest.  

Reasons a Cardiologist would recommend a stress test:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain, angina, or discomfort caused by poor heart blood flow.
  • An irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia).
  • You’ve a heart attack
  • Undergoing heart treatment.
  • Want to begin a new exercise program.
  • Upcoming heart surgery.

If your heart doctor has scheduled you to perform a stress test, they may advise you to follow a few rules beforehand to ensure the results are not affected. This will help to provide more accurate results. It is also important to discuss any concerns you might be having before the stress test. They are helping prepare you on what to expect, making the overall experience better.  

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks. Caffeine can hinder the effectiveness of the test.
  • Avoid taking certain medications. It is important to let your doctor know the prescribed and over-the-counter medicines you are currently taking, even supplements.
  • If you are a smoker, you may be asked not to smoke for 2 – 4 hours before the test.
  • No eating or drinking anything other than water 2 – 4 hours prior. This is to help prevent possible nausea during the test.   
  • If you use an inhaler, you should bring it with you and inform the doctor you have it.       
  • Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.

Before beginning a stress test, the doctor will need to hook you up to various medical devices to monitor your heart health. None of these devices will hurt you. Sticky patches known as electrodes will be attached to your arms and chest area. These will be connected to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine that will record your heart’s activity and rhythm. A blood pressure cuff will be placed around your arm that will expand during the testing, and a pulse monitor will be put on your finger to track your oxygen levels. Now you are ready to start your stress test.  

As you are exercising, the doctor or a nurse will be nearby if you start to feel ill during the testing. You will begin at a slow pace which will increase gradually. If you use a treadmill, it will slowly tilt and incline as the speed increases making you walk faster. As your speed picks up, your doctor may ask you to breathe in a tube to measure the amount of oxygen you have used. If you are using a stationary bike, you will slowly increase your pedaling while adjusting your resistance. This will make you’re pedaling more difficult, causing your heart to work harder. At any point during the testing, you are allowed to stop to rest. If the exercise becomes too strenuous or you start to feel ill, you can take a break. If not, it will continue until you have reached your target heart rate, which is 85% of the maximum heart rate predicted for your age. Those who are unable to exercise physically will be given medication to stimulate exercise. This will have the same effect as exercising, making your heart beat faster and increasing blood flow.

During the stress test, the doctor will be assessing specific areas to help diagnose symptoms related to various heart conditions.  

  • Blood pressure.
  • Breathing.
  • Heartbeat and heat waves
  • How the exercise is affecting your fatigue levels.

Once the test is completed, you will then be able to rest and drink some water while still being monitored until your heart rate returns to normal. Your official results will take at least a couple of days, but your cardiologist should give you preliminary results before you leave. Depending on the tests, you may need further treatment or tests.

If you are or someone you care about is experiencing heart problems, contact CT Cardio today at 337-234-3163. Dr. Corwin Thomas is a well-known certified Interventional Cardiologist, Nuclear and Internal Medicine doctor servicing the Lafayette, Louisiana area near you. With more than 20 years of experience, he and his team are dedicated to providing the best care available to their patients.