What Is a Stress Test?
A cardiac stress test is a diagnostic modality that doctors use to assess your heart function. This test measures your blood pressure, pulse, and electrical activity while the heart is working harder. To put the heart into a state of hard work, you will walk on a treadmill for a few minutes, during which your provider will monitor important vital signs and note any symptoms that you express. Because most stress tests utilize a treadmill, the screening is sometimes referred to as a treadmill test. The purpose of the stress test is to determine the efficacy with which the heart is pumping blood through the vascular system. Your doctor may use the findings of your test to determine if symptoms you've been having relate to your heart, if you have an irregular heartbeat, or to determine the most appropriate exercise for you as a part of cardiac rehabilitation.
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Who Is a Candidate for a Stress Test?
Doctors may order stress tests for a number of reasons. You may be a candidate for a stress test if you:
- Have symptoms of heart disease such as arrhythmia, angina, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
- Have been diagnosed with heart disease and are engaged in cardiac rehab or want to begin an exercise program.
- Have significant risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
What Should I Avoid After a Stress Test?
Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, you may resume normal activities right after your stress test. This means you should be able to drive yourself home after your appointment.
How Should I Prepare for a Stress Test?
Before your stress test, you may be instructed to:
- Not eat anything for at least a few hours before your appointment.
- Avoid caffeine starting 24 hours before your test.
- Avoid smoking and the use of tobacco products.
- Dress comfortably for your test and wear good walking shoes.
You may be advised to stop taking certain medications before your stress test. Before altering the dosages of any medication, you must talk to the doctor who prescribed it to you.
What Is a Normal Blood Pressure During a Stress Test?
During a stress test, blood pressure should not exceed 220 and 100 mm Hg. Your provider will closely monitor your blood pressure and other relevant vital signs during your test to ensure your safety.
How Many Minutes Does a Stress Test Take?
A stress test may take about an hour. However, the active portion of the test, during which you walk on a treadmill, will last only 10 to 15 minutes. The remaining time is spent applying the appropriate monitors and observing your vital signs after the test until your vitals return to normal.