One way to diagnose heart disease is to do an exercise stress test. A stress test collects information about the way your heart works under the load of physical activity or exercising. The test can reveal issues or problems that may not be apparent when you are at rest. Dr. Nadar and his cardiology team in Camp Hill, PA, regularly use stress testing as a diagnostic and assessment tool to manage heart health.
What is a Stress Test
Stress tests involve some form of exercise to elevate your heart rate, making it pump harder and faster. At Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates, we administer stress tests in our office using a treadmill. Stress tests are a very common way to diagnose heart disease and do not require a visit to the hospital. During a stress test, we will monitor your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and respiration. The test results will give us an indication of how your heart and vascular system respond to exercise. The test can be performed with EKG monitoring alone but is often performed with imaging (MRI, Nuclear, Echo) for improved diagnostic accuracy. For patients who are unable to exercise, we can administer a pharmacologic stress test with Dobutamine or regadenoson. The primary purpose of an exercise stress test is to:
- Determine your likelihood of having coronary artery disease
- Evaluate for exercise-induced relaxation abnormalities
- Evaluate for exercise-induced arrhythmias
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your cardiac treatment plan
- Evaluate the function of your heart valves
- Help you develop a safe exercise program
Does a Stress Test Carry Any Risks?
As with many medical tests and procedures, there is a small risk, however exercise stress tests are generally safe.
Exercise stress test complications may include:
- Low blood pressure: Experienced during of immediately after testing causing dizziness
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats): May emerge during the exercise stress test
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack): Generally a risk for those with advanced heart conditions
What Should I Expect From an Exercise Stress Test?
On the day of your exercise stress test, bring comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and typical walking shoes you would wear for a short walk or light exercise. Dr. Nadar and our cardiology team may have other instructions on how to best prepare based on your initial consultation and will advise you before your scheduled appointment. Other potential preparation may include not eating, drinking, or smoking for 2 hours or longer before the test and avoiding caffeine or some medications for 24 hours before the test as they may influence results. At the test, you will be asked about your usual level of exercise, so we can adjust the test to the appropriate level. Dr. Nadar and his team will attach any monitoring devices being used such as electrocardiogram electrodes and a blood pressure cuff. In some cases, a breathing tube may also be used. The test starts with low intensity and builds until your heart rate meets the test target or until contrary symptoms result. Once the test is completed, you may sit or lie down with monitors still attached so we can determine your heart’s recovery patterns.