Any kind of heart-related medical test or procedure can feel stressful. However, ironically enough, one that you shouldn’t stress about is the stress test. You’ve probably seen images on television or movies of a person walking or jogging on a treadmill with wires attached to their bodies. Often those images are of someone undergoing a stress test. Basically, a stress test is an evaluation that your cardiologist uses to determine how your heart will perform when it’s under stress. Cardiologists face a problem: you’re relaxed and comfortable when in their office, and any tests you undergo only get a partial view of what’s happening inside your body. This test helps provide a clearer picture of what’s happening throughout the day.

How Does A Stress Test Work?

During your test, the technician will put you into a situation that will raise your heart rate. Depending on your physical ability, that may be walking or jogging, or in some cases, they will use chemicals to raise your heart rate artificially. Electrodes, a blood pressure cuff, and in some cases, a tube to breathe in are placed on your body to monitor you during the test. You’ll continue exercising until your heart rate has reached a predetermined level or you are unable to continue. The data from a stress test is used to diagnose coronary artery disease, heart rhythm issues, and more.

Before The Test

But the question many people ask us is, “how can I prepare for my stress test?” And the truth is, there isn’t much you need to do to prepare. This isn’t a test you’re trying to ace, and you’re not attempting to impress anyone with your high score. The test is a diagnostic opportunity, and your doctor wants to know what’s happening in real-time so they can treat you properly.

That said, your cardiologist will ask some things of you the night before your exam. You may be asked to fast for a period before your test and avoid caffeine the day before. Your doctor will give you specific instructions to help you prepare effectively. Additionally, your doctor will tell you what medications to take or avoid taking the day of your test.

If you have existing breathing issues requiring an inhaler, you will want to bring that medication. And most importantly, you should wear loose, comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes that you would wear when exercising in your day-to-day life.

Stress tests vary in duration but generally take an hour from start to finish, including preparation. Never fear, you won’t spend the whole hour exercising! Even after the exercise portion is over, you may be asked to stand still or lay down so that your doctor can continue to monitor you.

The results from your test will be exceedingly helpful in either diagnosing one of the aforementioned cardiac conditions or giving you a clean bill of health. If your test results are abnormal, your cardiologist may order further testing to get to the bottom of your health concerns. Like any other diagnostic test, this test is essential in your doctor’s toolbox and should give you a sense of confidence rather than anxiety. After all, the more data your doctor has, the more successfully they can treat you.

If you have a family history of cardiac problems or have concerning symptoms, we urge you to find a cardiologist who can track your heart health. If you’re looking for a cardiology practice, we’d love to serve you. Contact our office to learn more about our services or for further information about our diagnostic testing options.