Stress tests can identify abnormal heart rates or blood pressures, heart rhythm irregularities and classify an individual's aerobic capacity. Stress tests are often used to determine a safe level of exercise for those who are recovering from a cardiac event, such as a heart attack or heart surgery. They can also help differentiate whether a woman's symptoms of palpitations, heart racing, shortness of breath or new onset of fatigue are stemming from blockages in the heart arteries rather than a simple manifestation of stress or anxiety. Stress tests are typically done walking on a treadmill, and can be done in conjunction with an ultrasound or nuclear scan to increase the accuracy of the results.
The following are common tests:
- Arm ergometer ("arms only" bicycle) stress test
- Bicycle stress test
- Dobutamine Stress Echo
- Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI) with Cardiolite or Dobutamine
- Stress Myocardial Uptake Gated Analysis (MUGA) Study
Preparation for Stress Tests
The following are general guidelines to prepare for most types of stress testing:
- Take your medications as regularly scheduled, unless your physician has instructed you otherwise. If you have a history of asthma, bring your inhalers with you.
- Do not have ANY caffeine (coffee, tea, colas, chocolate, including all decaffeinated beverages) for 12 hours prior to your test.
- Do not smoke the day of your test.
- Do not eat solid food two hours prior to your scheduled test time. Diabetic patients may have a light snack or follow physician recommendations.
- If you are scheduled for a treadmill stress test, wear flat, comfortable walking shoes and non-restrictive clothes. Women may want to wear a button-up blouse and should avoid dresses and pantyhose.
- Bring a list of your current medications.
Always check with your ordering physician if he/she has any special instructions to be adhered to (such as withholding a medication the day of your test).