What is a Heart Stress Test?

If you’ve consulted with your doctor about a heart problem, you’ll likely be asked to complete a few tests. One of the more frequently used tools is known as a heart stress test. This method used in evaluating heart disease is also called an exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, or stress ECG, but regardless of what it’s been titled, you may be wondering what you’re in for.

During a stress test, doctors will gather data about how your heart performs when exerted.To increase your heart rate, you will probably be asked to walk on a treadmill, pedal on a stationary bike, or another type of simple exercise. Using a number of monitors, your physician will examine how your heart performs while stressed, checking your blood pressure, heart rate, and other information. This test can help to detect a number of potential issues if an abnormal heart rate or insufficient blood flow to the heart is found. It can also point to malfunctioning heart valves, predict the chances of a coronary disease, and evaluate the effectiveness of heart medications that you may be taking.

While there are several types of stress tests, there are four most commonly used varieties. The treadmill stress test is the simplest to apply and can detect any major issues by simply monitoring how far a patient can walk and whether any pains develop by doing so. A stress echocardiogram (commonly referred to as an “echo”) will actually depict the movement of a patient’s heart, pinpointing any lack of blood flow or other issues through a visualization of the heart’s pumping motion. An Adenosine stress test involves administering a drug to patients who cannot exercise for any number of reasons. The drug will increase the patient’s heart rate as if he or she were exercising, allowing doctors to examine the heart’s reaction under stress. A nuclear stress test uses a radioactive substance and specialized cameras to carefully pinpoint any unhealthy parts of the heart. After the substance is injected into the patient, data will be recorded both while the patient is at rest and after the heart is stimulated through exercise.

The specific conditions for a test and why it’s being conducted vary for every patient. If you’re concerned about an upcoming heart stress test, or think you may need one, consult with your primary doctor or a cardiologist.