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 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:
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).