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Exercise Stress Testing

An exercise stress test helps a doctor find out how well your heart works.

During the test, you’ll be asked to exercise—usually on a treadmill—while you’re hooked up to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. This allows your doctor to monitor your heart rate. The test measures heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and how tired you feel. The exercise is about as much as walking fast or jogging up a big hill.

As your body works harder, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is enough. It also helps doctors know your appropriate level of exercise.

Who is eligible for exercise stress testing?

An exercise stress test is appropriate for people experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness. The test may also be used to help determine a safe level of exercise for you, especially if you are starting a new exercise program.

What conditions can be diagnosed by a exercise stress testing?

A physician may recommend an exercise stress test to diagnose:

  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Guide treatment of heart disorders.
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).

How do I prepare for exercise stress testing?

Before your test, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Tell your doctor about your symptoms and any conditions that make exercising difficult, such as stiff joints from arthritis. Let your doctor know if you have diabetes. They may want to monitor your blood glucose levels during the exercise test.

On the day of the test, wear loose, comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes or athletic sneakers.

Your doctor may ask you to:

  • Stop taking certain medications.
  • Report any chest pains or other complications you notice on the day of the test.
  • Avoid eating, smoking, or drinking caffeinated beverages for three hours before the test.

What should I expect during my exercise stress testing?

You will be hooked up to equipment to monitor the heart. You will walk slowly in place on a treadmill. Then the speed will increase at a faster pace, and the treadmill will be tilted to produce the effect of going up a small hill.

You may be asked to breathe into a tube for a couple of minutes. You can stop the test at any time. Afterward, you will sit or lie down to have their heart and blood pressure checked.

Why choose Presbyterian for exercise stress testing?

Presbyterian’s Heart and Vascular team has many different options to help you manage your heart condition. The team performs various diagnostic tests and procedures to help form an accurate diagnosis and create individualized treatment plans for your heart health needs. Depending on the type of heart condition you have and its underlying cause, the team can recommend a wide variety of treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, medications, and procedures. Our cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons work closely together for cases in which surgery is the best treatment option. We also offer a customized cardiac rehabilitation program at our Healthplex, where clinically appropriate, which can improve your endurance and exercise tolerance, as well as improve heart-related symptoms. Your cardiologist will work with the rehabilitation team to create a plan that will be tailored to your individual health needs.