To understand how your heart responds to increased activity, a stress test or treadmill test is designed to intentionally get your heart rate going. When your body is more active, it requires more oxygen. Oxygen is delivered through the blood, so your heart must pump more of it, which is why you feel your heart beat harder when you exercise. The test can help diagnose coronary artery disease, as well as possible causes of symptoms like shortness of breath, feeling light-headed, or chest pain. It can also help determine the right kind and level of exercise that’s best for you.
How Should I Prepare the Day Before the Procedure?
Ask your doctor if you should avoid caffeine or certain medications the day before the test, because they can interfere with certain stress tests. You may also be asked not to eat, drink or smoke for two to four hours before the test, though you can still drink water.
What Happens on the Day of the Procedure?
Be sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting work-out clothes such as shorts or sweatpants and jogging or tennis shoes. The technician will place sticky patches (electrodes) on your chest and arms or shoulders that are connected with wires to an electrocardiogram machine. A cuff placed on your arm will measure blood pressure. You’ll walk slowly in place on the treadmill. It will tilt so you feel like you’re going up a small hill, and change speed so you walk faster. You can stop the test at any time if you need to. After slowing down for a few minutes, you’ll sit or lie down and your heart and blood pressure will be checked. You may be asked to breathe into a mouthpiece that will measure the air you breathe out.
When Will I Get My Results?
Your doctor may be able to look at the results recorded during your test to see if your heart is functioning normally, and tell you the results the same day it's performed or at a follow-up appointment. The data from this test may also indicate the need for additional tests which your doctor will recommend.