Heart disease is a serious condition that affects many people every year. One of the best ways to diagnose heart disease is with a stress test. During a stress test, a doctor can tell if your heart is working correctly. If you have never had a stress test but have symptoms of heart disease, the following may be helpful:
What Does a Stress Test Detect?
A stress test is an exercise test to see how well your heart functions when doing physical activities. A stress test typically uses a treadmill or exercise bike and other measuring equipment to measure your heart function as your physical activity increases. This test is used to detect a variety of heart conditions, including unusual heart rhythms, coronary heart disease, and damage to heart valves. It can also detect any damage to your heart caused by a heart attack.
What Happens During a Stress Test?
When you arrive for your stress test, you will have a series of electrode patches placed on different parts of your body, including the arms, legs, and chest. The electrodes measure the activity of your heart during the test. You might also wear a blood pressure cuff and oxygen mask to measure blood pressure and your exhalation of carbon dioxide.
When the stress test starts, you will run or walk on a treadmill or pedal the bike at a normal pace. As the test goes on, the technician will increase the speed of your activity to get your blood pumping through your heart at a higher level. Once you reach your top heart rate or you begin to feel unable to continue at the current pace, the stress test will end. Afterward, you will sit and rest until your heart rate goes back down to a normal level.
What Do the Results Tell You?
Once the stress test is over, you will receive the results. If your results are in the normal range, you will not need to do anything else. If your results are not within a normal range, your doctor will have you take additional tests to determine what the problem is and how to resolve it.
How Do You Prepare for a Stress Test?
The night before your test, you may be asked to fast and not take any medication. Be sure to check with your doctor beforehand. Do not drink your morning coffee or anything that contains caffeine, as this can affect your results. On the day of your stress test, you should wear comfortable clothing you would normally wear to exercise.
Talk to a medical professional to learn more about stress testing.