What Can I Expect During Exercise Stress Testing?

Sep 01, 2023
What Can I Expect During Exercise Stress Testing?
After a doctor informs you that an exercise stress test is necessary for your heart, you probably have many questions, including what to expect. Keep reading to discover how an exercise stress test works and how to prepare for optimal results.

Exercise stress testing is just one of the tests doctors use to evaluate your heart and how well it works under stress. During the stress test, you use a treadmill or a stationary bike to force your heart to work harder.

The harder your body works, the more oxygen it requires from the heart and lungs. An exercise stress test can be scary if you don't know what to expect and are nervous, but you're in good hands with the Heart Clinic of Hammond team.

Dr. Ghiath Mikdadi and Dr. Farid Zayed are experienced cardiologists who offer exercise and nuclear stress testing to rule out issues with your heart.

Both doctors provide support during the stress test and help you prepare beforehand so you can come to the test without fear or nervousness.

The facts on exercise stress testing

An exercise stress test is a tool we use to see how your heart handles physical activity. It's typically done on a treadmill or stationary bike, increasing speed until your heart rate and blood pressure rise.

But why would you need an exercise stress test? We perform stress tests for various reasons, some of which include:

  • Diagnose coronary artery disease
  • Diagnose the cause of shortness of breath or chest pain 
  • Predict the chances of a heart attack
  • Determine a safe level of exercise for the patient
  • Check how effective treatments have been for CAD

Most healthy people can have an exercise stress test without any problems. It's about the same as walking up the steps several times or uphill. However, there's always a medical professional in the room in case of an emergency.

An exercise stress test aims to see how well your heart pumps out oxygenated blood under the stress of physical activity. It can show us much about your heart health and whether specific treatments work.

How to prepare for the stress test

An exercise stress test is a relatively simple procedure with little preparation. However, our team does recommend a few tips to follow before the test, such as:

  • Avoid eating a few hours before the test
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes
  • Don't drink caffeinated beverages for 24 hours before the test
  • Try to relax before the test and stay calm
  • Avoid tobacco products and smoking

Stop taking certain medications before your stress test to avoid false results. We review your instructions a few days before the test to ensure you understand which medications you can and can't take before the procedure.

What happens during an exercise stress test?

On the day of your stress test, you come to the office, where we check you in and take you to a treatment room. We then attach electrodes to your chest that we hook to a heart monitor.

We also place a blood pressure cuff on your arm and get you situated on the treadmill or exercise bike. You begin to pedal or walk slowly as you get a baseline of your vital signs.

As the test progresses, you begin to pedal or walk faster until you meet a target heart rate that we set in the beginning. Our team monitors your vital signs to see how your heart responds to the increased physical activity.

If you begin to feel lightheaded, short of breath, or have chest pain at any point during the test, we stop the test and apply the proper treatment to get you feeling better.

When you're unable to exercise for any reason, we put an IV in your arm and administer a medication that works your heart like exercise. Although the test takes a little longer, it yields similar results.

Getting the results

After finishing the exercise stress test, we monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing until they all return to normal limits. You can then go home and await the results unless any complications occur.

When the results are in, we call you for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Mikdadi or Dr. Zayed. They explain the results to you and discuss the next treatment steps.

If your exercise stress test was normal, it means your heart is pumping blood efficiently to your body. It may mean you're ready to start an exercise program after a procedure or that you can benefit from heart disease treatments.

Abnormal exercise stress tests may indicate heart disease. We may need to perform other testing to pinpoint the problem, including a stress echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization, or a nuclear stress test.

If you're ready to schedule an exercise stress test, call us today at 985-974-9278 or request an online consultation at our Hammond or Amite, Louisiana, office.