Exercise Stress Test, A Guide to Prepare You
What is an Exercise Stress Test?
This test is done while you either walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. It allows doctors to learn how the heart functions when it is made to work harder.
This test is useful in diagnosing coronary heart disease. This is caused by blockages in the coronary arteries. These are the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
Getting Ready for the Test
Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test. This will help prevent you from feeling sick to your stomach, which can happen when you exercise after eating. (If you have diabetes, be sure to ask your doctor for special instructions).
Do not smoke for at least 3 hours before the test.
If you are currently taking any heart medicine or have questions or concerns, check with your doctor. He or she may ask you to stop certain medicines a day or two before the test. This can help get better test results. If you have questions about the test, call the Heart and Vascular Care Testing Lab at (608) 263-9014.
Avoid any hard exercise on the day of the test.
Wear loose clothing that is good to exercise in. Men often do not wear a shirt during the test. Women wear a loose-fitting blouse or hospital gown. Wear walking shoes or sneakers that fit well.
Several electrodes (small sticky patches) will be placed on your chest to obtain an electrocardiogram (ECG). This is a record of the heart’s electrical activity. In order to obtain a good connection with the electrodes, your skin will be rubbed hard with alcohol pads. You may notice some skin soreness after the test. This should go away in a day or two. Men may need to have part of their chest shaved to be sure the test results are correct.
Before the test, you will be told how the test will be done. You will also be asked to sign a consent form. Feel free to ask any questions about the test.
After a brief exam, you will be asked to exercise either by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a bike. This will begin slow and easy. It will slowly become harder.
You will be told to report any symptoms, such as chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, leg fatigue, or if you feel dizzy. The person doing the test will decide when to end the test. This will be when your heart beats at the target rate, when you get too tired, or if you have any problems.
The exercise portion of the test often takes 5 to 15 minutes. You should allow an hour for the whole test. This includes getting ready, the exercise portion, and recovery period.
Your Tests Results
Your own doctor will talk to you about the test results during a future office visit or by phone.
The results of this test will help your doctor know how your heart is working. It will help them to come up with a treatment plan that is best for you.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #5950.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/18/2011
Copyright © 01/18/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5491
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