Exercise electrocardiograms, also known as stress EKGs or stress tests, require exercise because doctors need to monitor your heart and how it responds to varying levels of exertion. Doctors use stress tests to diagnose and determine multiple heart-related issues, including:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Coronary heart disease
- Adequate blood flow to the heart during exercise
- The effectiveness of devices such as a catheter or stent and how they have improved blood flow within the heart
- The effectiveness of heart medications
Before Your Stress Test
- Don’t eat or drink anything for up to four hours before the test.
- Don’t ingest anything containing caffeine in it for 12 hours before your stress test. Caffeine can skew your results.
- If you are taking heart medications, talk to your doctor before your test to see if he wants you to continue or discontinue taking them before your stress test.
- If you require an inhaler, bring it.
During Your Stress Test
- A technician will attach approximately 10 electrodes to your chest, which will send signals to an electrocardiograph monitor.
- Before you begin the exercising portion of your stress test, your technician will get a baseline reading of your heart at rest.
- Your test will take place on a treadmill or a stationary bike. As the test progresses, the level of difficulty will gradually increase.
- Throughout the test, your technician will check on you to see how you are feeling. If you become light-headed, dizzy, short of breath or start suffering chest, arm or jaw pain, tell your technician.
- Your stress test will conclude with several minutes of cooling down so your heart rate returns to normal.
- Finally, you doctor will receive the results of your stress test. They will read it and discuss your results and options.
After Your Stress Test
Once the stress test is complete, your technician will help you gradually return to a normal pulse and heart rate. A doctor will then review the results of your stress test with you. These results will help your doctor determine any treatment or whether further tests may be needed.