What is a stress test?
Most people with a heart problem have to undergo a stress test (also called as treadmill testing). It is a non-invasive test used to evaluate your heart. The results of the test allow your doctor to detect and guide the treatment of your condition.
How is a stress test performed?
You will be attached to an ECG machine and blood pressure cuff will be placed on one arm. A baseline ECG is first obtained. The treadmill is then started at a relatively slow “warm-up” speed.
The treadmill speed and it’s slope or inclination are increased every 3 minutes. Each 3 minute interval is known as a Stage (Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, etc.) At each stage, the pulse, blood pressure and ECG are recorded, along with any symptoms that you may be experiencing.
After the test, you will be monitored until any symptoms disappear and until the pulse, blood pressure and ECG return to baseline.
How to prepare for the stress test?
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are suitable for exercise.
- Do not eat or drink for two to three hours prior to the procedure. This reduces the likelihood of nausea that may accompany strenuous exercise after a heavy meal. If you are diabetic, you may need special instructions from your physician.
- Specific heart medicines like beta blockers (Atenolol, Metaprolol etc.) may need to be stopped one or two days prior to the test. Such instructions are generally provided when the test is scheduled.
Male patients may have to shave the hair on the chest. This is usually done before the test in the department itself.
How long does the entire test take?
The entire test may take one hour, including the preparation.
How will I know if I passed or failed my stress test?
You don’t necessarily “pass” or “fail” a stress test. Typically, you are asked to exercise for as long as you can. This may be two or three minutes for some people and 10 to 12 minutes for others, depending on the condition of your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs). If your test is positive, it shows that your heart was not getting enough oxygen when you were exercising. This means you may have one or more blockages in you coronary arteries. Your doctor will then decide which form of treatment is best for you.