So, your doctor has ordered a stress test. Just the name of the test can be alarming to some, but the truth is, this diagnostic test is nothing to be worried about. This diagnostic test is an essential tool enabling doctors to get a peek at how well your heart functions when you’re not calmly sitting in an exam room. 

There are two types of stress tests. The exercise version of the test uses activity (walking or jogging on a treadmill) to stress your cardiovascular system. During a nuclear stress test, the technician injects chemicals into your bloodstream to create the same effect. The goal behind both tests is to provide a clear image of how your heart reacts to physical exertion so that your cardiologist can determine a treatment plan.

Now that you understand what you’re getting yourself into, there are some essential things you need to know about prepping for your test. Below are the simple dos and don’ts. Remember that your doctor knows you best and will give you specific instructions before your test, but this information may be helpful as you prepare.

Do Relax
You know that feeling when you get anxious about an upcoming test or procedure, and your heart starts to race? That anxiety can skew your test results if you’re not careful. Take time to center yourself, relax, and remember that this is just a diagnostic tool that enables your doctor to give you the best treatment available. 

Do Dress Appropriately
Think of what you’d wear for a walk around your neighborhood or workout at the gym. Remember that you will be asked to exert yourself; tight pants and uncomfortable shoes won’t cut it. Wear lightweight clothes and sturdy exercise-friendly shoes.

Don’t Eat Beforehand
When you consume food, your body naturally sends extra blood flow to your stomach to aid digestion. This can alter your test results. For some patients with diabetes or other diagnosed conditions, skipping meals isn’t an option. If you have concerns about this recommendation, speak to your doctor. They will always be the best place to turn for personalized medical advice.

Don’t Drink Caffeine
Have you ever noticed that your blood pressure may appear higher when you drink too much coffee before going to the doctor’s office? Imagine how a caffeine spike would impact the results of your test. Certainly, avoid caffeinated drinks before your test, but also be aware of your medications (prescribed or over-the-counter) that may contain caffeine including migraine medications and over-the-counter pain relievers.

Don’t Smoke
If you ask us, we think you should avoid smoking or using tobacco products altogether, though we know many patients still partake. However, you must abstain in the hours before a diagnostic test like this one. Like all the other substances we’ve already mentioned, tobacco products can skew your test results, making them invalid.   

Don’t Take Prescribed Meds
Finally, avoid taking your prescription medications the day of the test, including those prescribed by your cardiologist, beta-blockers, and inhalers. Please ask your doctor for specific instructions if you’re wary about this advice. Your cardiologist wants an accurate picture of your heart function under stress, and you must be unmedicated at the time.

If you’ve felt any fear or hesitation about an upcoming cardiac stress test, we hope this short article relieves that. Understanding how to prepare and what to expect from any diagnostic test is the best way to ensure success. If you have any specific questions about your test, don’t hesitate to ask your cardiologist. Remember that there are no silly questions. For more information about our diagnostic services, contact us today.