Evaluating Heart Health with Exercise Stress Tests
Stress tests are an important diagnostic tool and help physicians evaluate the performance of your heart and cardiovascular system. Some heart diseases that are not apparent with a resting EKG can be detected during an exercise stress test.
There are two common types of stress tests, treadmill tests and exercise stress tests.
Treadmill exercise stress tests
A treadmill test is a study where you are asked to walk on a treadmill while your electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood pressure are monitored throughout the test and symptoms are evaluated. You will be walking on the treadmill for approximately three to 12 minutes. Your total appointment time for a treadmill test will be approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
No special preparation is required for a stress echocardiogram. You should come prepared to walk on a treadmill. You should wear comfortable walking shoes and loose-fitting clothing. Eat or drink as you normally do; however, avoid large meals within one hour of your test time. If you take medications, you should continue to take them as normal unless your doctor specifies otherwise.
Exercise stress tests
An exercise stress test serves as a method for identifying blocked coronary arteries, as well as any previous heart damage. This stress test will allow your physician to evaluate blood flow to the heart muscle.
The test requires three-to-four hours to complete. Upon arrival to our office, an IV line is placed in your arm. A small amount of radioactive tracer is given through the IV. No side effects should be expected.
After an initial waiting period, an imaging scan of your heart is performed while you are lying down or reclining. After this scan, you will either walk on a treadmill or will receive a medication that simulates the effects of exercise. These medications are used for individuals who are unable to exercise adequately. During the medication infusion, your electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood pressure are constantly monitored.
If you are receiving the medication, you will also receive another small amount of tracer. Following the infusion, there is another waiting period, followed by a second imaging scan.
If you are walking on the treadmill for the second phase, you will also receive a second infusion of the tracer. Following the treadmill test, there is another waiting period, followed by a second imaging scan.
You should have absolutely no caffeine 12 hours prior to test. This includes chocolate, coffee, energy bars, energy drinks, diet supplements, tea and soda (even decaf). Any caffeine consumption up to 12 hours before your test may result in your test being rescheduled. You may eat a light meal (such as toast and juice) up to four hours before your the test. Also, do not smoke or use smoking cessation gum, patches, etc. You should wear comfortable walking shoes and loose-fitting clothing.
If you take medications, talk to your doctor beforehand as some prescription or over-the-counter medications should not be taken as long as 48 hours before the test.