Exercise stress test

Exercise Stress Test: What Is It?

An exercise stress test (also known as an exercise treadmill test or treadmill test, a stress test, or a cardiopulmonary stress test) is a type of test that checks how well the heart works under physical stress. During the test, the patient utilizes a treadmill or bike while hooked up to an electrocardiogram machine (EKG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart. The test is typically administered by a trained technician, doctor, or nurse.

Preparation for Exercise Stress Test

Prior to the test, there are a few preparations that must be taken. First, the patient should refrain from caffeine and eating a heavy meal three to four hours before the test. During the test, the patient should wear comfortable clothing and supportive footwear. Other preparations may include fasting, i.e. no food eight to twelve hours prior to the test.

Procedure of Exercise Stress Test

During the test, the patient will be asked to exercise for several minutes while hooked up to an EKG machine. The level of intensity of the exercise will vary depending on the patient's age and medical condition, but usually starts at a slow speed. The duration and intensity of the exercise will gradually increase until the patient reaches 70-85% of their maximal heart rate. Depending on the patient's condition and the purpose of the test, the doctor may request to have the patient exercise for longer than the normal duration.

Types of Exercise Stress Test

  • Standard exercise test: The patient is typically asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike.
  • Aerobic exercise: The patient is typically asked to cycle or run on a tread mill.
  • Prescription oxygen test: A mask is attached to the patient's face and the oxygen content in the air is measured to assess the patient's aerobic capacity.
  • Stratified exercise test: This test focuses on specific muscles and joints and the patient is asked to perform certain movements while their body is analyzed.
  • Lifestyle assessment: This assessment focuses on the patient's daily activities and lifestyle, such as diet, weight, physical activity level, and sleep habits.

Risks of Exercise Stress Test

The risks associated with an exercise stress test are minimal. The most commonly reported side effects of the test are chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations. These side effects usually occur during or after the test and can be managed with rest. In rare cases, the test may cause chest pain or an irregular heartbeat that requires immediate medical attention.

Why Exercise Stress Test Is Done?

Exercise stress tests are typically ordered by physicians to diagnose and evaluate the severity of heart disease and its progression. The test may also be used to determine the effectiveness of treatments for heart disease. Additionally, it may be done as a pre-operative screening for certain treatments or surgeries.

When Exercise Stress Test Is Recommended?

Your doctor may recommend an exercise stress test if you have any of the following conditions: chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, a known heart condition, a risk of stroke, or a risk of cardiovascular events. Additionally, the test may be used to evaluate the risk of someone participating in competitive sports.