What to Expect During Your Stress Test

What to Expect During Your Stress Test

Remarkably, heart disease has been the No. 1 cause of death in the United States since 1950. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, indiscriminately affects men and women of all races and ethnicities. In fact, one person in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds

As sobering as these statistics are, there's more information about heart disease and the lifestyle factors that put you at risk for developing the condition than ever before. Advances in medicine and diagnostic testing over the past decades have provided new tools for your doctor’s toolbox.

These tools not only help patients with heart disease live more productive lives, but they also mean doctors can better diagnose heart conditions in the first place. In this blog, the cardiologists at Cardio Metabolic Institute share their insights on stress tests and what to expect during this procedure. 

Stress test explained

A stress test, sometimes referred to as an exercise stress test, is a fairly common diagnostic test that doctors use to assess how well your heart functions. Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or an irregular heartbeat.

Although there are variations of a stress test, the principle behind the procedure is the same: Exert the heart or make it pump harder to see how it responds. Specifically, a stress test helps your doctor assess and identify:

Here’s what you need to know about undergoing a stress test.

It takes about an hour from beginning to end

The actual exercise part of a stress test typically lasts about 15 minutes, but allow up to an hour from the time you walk into the office to when you leave.

Your provider preps you for the test by placing sticky patches containing electrodes on your chest and sometimes on other parts of your body like your legs and arms. The electrodes record your heart's rhythm. The results — called an electrocardiogram (ECG) — are graphed by a computer connected to the electrodes. 

Generally, the exercise part of the test takes place on a treadmill. During the test, your provider gradually increases the intensity and speed of the treadmill to make your heart work harder.

In addition to measuring your heart’s rhythm, your provider keeps an eye on your blood pressure using a cuff that you wear on your arm throughout the test. In some cases, your practitioner may monitor your respiration during exercise by asking you to breathe into a tube during the test. 

Your cardiologist at Cardio Metabolic Institute may evaluate your results as soon as your stress test is complete or may schedule you for a follow up visit to go over the results. Depending on the results of your stress test, your doctor may recommend additional diagnostic testing to make a proper diagnosis.

Noninvasive, little prep, and no downtime

While it’s natural to be a little nervous about undergoing any medical test, stress tests are noninvasive and require very little, if any preparation on your part. And there’s no downtime afterward. 

Our team provides details you need to know in advance — like wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothes to your test. Typically, you’ll be asked to fast prior to the test unless you’re diabetic. We may also ask you to avoid beverages that contain caffeine for 24 hours before your stress test.

If you take certain prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, your doctor may recommend that you don’t take them on the day of your stress test. Do not change your medication routine without your doctor directing you to do so.

Patients who use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing problems should bring the inhaler with them in case they need it during the stress test.

A versatile diagnostic tool and treatment guide

A stress test not only helps your doctor find issues like severely narrowed arteries, but it also helps guide your care team on the best treatment options for your condition and monitors treatment progress if you’ve already been diagnosed with a heart problem.

Your cardiologist also may order a stress test to evaluate whether your heart is strong enough for surgery. And if you’re undergoing cardiac rehabilitation, a stress test helps your doctor evaluate whether your heart is healthy enough to begin an exercise program.

To learn more about stress tests or to book your test at Cardio Metabolic Institute, contact us by calling the location near you — in East Brunswick, Edison, Somerset, or Monroe Township, New Jersey — or make your appointment online today.

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