Here’s How to Interpret the Results of Your Exercise Stress Test

May 03, 2024
Here’s How to Interpret the Results of Your Exercise Stress Test
An exercise stress test is a great tool to find heart problems and disease – but what do the results mean? Keep reading to learn more about exercise stress testing and how to interpret your results for peace of mind.

Chest pain or related symptoms may trigger your doctor to order an exercise stress test, which is a tool that determines how your heart handles stress. An exercise stress test is one of the first tools to see how your heart functions and find issues early.

However, if you don't know what to expect, understanding your results may be challenging and cause a lot of anxiety. Learning what to expect from your results can ease your mind and help you determine if your heart is healthy.

At the Heart Clinic of Hammond, Dr. Ghiath Mikdadi and Dr. Farid Zayed offer various cardiac testing, including exercise and nuclear stress testing.

Dr. Mikdadi and Dr. Zayed are board-certified cardiologists who help their patients understand the diagnostic testing results and provide personalized treatments for various cardiac conditions.

What is an exercise stress test?

An exercise stress test is a diagnostic tool for determining how well medications work or finding issues while your heart is stressed. The test lets us see how well your heart works under intense exercise.

During an exercise stress test, you wear electrodes on your chest and a blood pressure cuff to monitor your heart rate, rhythm, pulse, and blood pressure. You then run on a treadmill or ride an exercise bike to increase your heart rate slowly.

You begin to run or ride faster to increase your heart rate until you achieve a target we set at the beginning of the test. The electrodes show us your heart rhythm during the test so we can interpret changes and how your heart works under the added pressure of exercise.

An exercise stress test aims to determine how your heart works and if you have dangerous conditions such as coronary artery disease.

Critical aspects of an exercise stress test

To understand the results of the exercise stress test, you need to know what we are monitoring during the test. There are several vital parts of the exercise stress test, and they include:

Baseline ECG

The baseline ECG is the electrical recording of your heart before the test. We look for any changes in your heartbeat, including changes in position, such as sitting or lying down. The baseline ECG gives us something to compare to the rest of the test.

Any ECG changes

During the exercise portion of the test, we monitor the ECG for any changes, mainly as your heart works harder. These changes may indicate that your heart isn't getting enough oxygen.

Presence of arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats that may occur at rest or during exercise. We note the type of arrhythmia and whether it occurred while exercising or resting.

Symptoms during exercise

One of the main points of the exercise stress test is watching for cardiac symptoms while you're active. These symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue.

Blood pressure

Monitoring your blood pressure during the test also gives us much insight into your heart health. Although it should fluctuate with exercise, specific blood pressure responses could indicate a lack of oxygen to the heart.

Interpreting your results

After the stress test, you may wonder how you and your heart did. We interpret the results in several ways, including:


A positive result from a stress test is an abnormal result, meaning we found evidence to support that your heart wasn't getting enough oxygen during exercise. The supporting findings include ECG changes, chest pain during the test, and blood pressure changes.


A negative test result is typical, meaning we didn't find evidence that your heart got overstressed during the test. Even if you had ECG changes or other symptoms, they may be a normal stress response, allowing us to conclude a negative result.


Any changes we see during the stress test that don't indicate cardiac ischemia may result in an inconclusive result. That means there were changes, but something else may be going on, and further testing is warranted.


An uninterpretable stress test happens when something prevents the test from concluding. You may be unable to finish the test due to symptoms, or something may malfunction with the equipment. In this case, you may require other testing to stress your heart for a precise result.

To learn more about exercise stress testing, call the Heart Clinic of Hammond today to schedule a consultation with our team or request an online appointment.