An exercise stress test is a type of test that can help diagnose the risk of heart disease or acute myocardial infarction while exercising. It allows physicians to detect any abnormal responses to physical activity, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, or changes in the heart’s electrical activity. These abnormal responses indicate an inadequate blood supply to the heart muscles during exercise.
What to Expect During the Exercise Stress Test
- The test will take approximately 1 hour to complete.
- A member of the healthcare team will briefly check the patient’s medical history, focusing on current symptoms and a family history of heart disease.
- A nurse will place electrode patches on the patient’s chest to measure the patient’s heart rhythm and heartrate via wires attached to an electrocardiograph monitor. During the test, the healthcare team will monitor the patient’s blood pressure and ECG at all times.
- The patient will be asked to start out by walking slowly on a treadmill. The degree of difficulty and incline on the machine will gradually increase approximately every 3 minutes. Once the patient has reached the target heart rate, or if they are exhausted and cannot continue, a healthcare team member will stop the treadmill.
How to Prepare for the Exercise Stress Test
- Do not consume any food or drinks 2 hours prior to the test – especially greasy foods, tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages.
- Consult the doctor in advance regarding any medications planned to be taken before the test, as certain medications can interfere with the results of the test.
- Bring your list of medications, along with the specified dosages.
- Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing suitable for exercise.
What to Be Careful Of During the Test
Patients must inform the medical personnel immediately if they require the treadmill to be slowed or stopped, or experience the following:
- Chest pain, burning sensation or tightness in the chest
- Nausea or dizziness
Possible Risks and Complications
- Irregular heartbeat
- Syncope (fainting) – which can cause injury if the patient collapses
- Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)
After an Exercise Stress Test
Once the test is complete, medical personnel will continue to monitor the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate until the levels return to normal. If the doctor suspects any abnormalities, they may conduct further testing or propose alternative testing methods in order to acquire more definitive results.
After the test, the patient may eat, take their medication, and go about their activities as usual – unless instructed not to do so by a doctor.
Heart (Cardiology) Center
Bumrungrad International Clinic (BIC) Building, 14th
Bumrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand