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Heart disease stress tests

Stress tests are a common assessment for heart problems, and are also known as an exercise tolerance test or exercise ECG ( electrocardiogram).

The test is designed to check:

These tests are safe and are carried out with close monitoring by a doctor or specially trained technician in a hospital or clinic.

What preparations are needed?

You'll usually be asked to wear comfortable clothes and suitable shoes, such as trainers.

To avoid discomfort, avoid a big meal, coffee or caffeine drinks a few hours before the test appointment - and don't smoke before the test.

Specific instructions may be given about taking or stopping any medication before the test.

What happens during the stress test?

  • First, 10 electrodes with sticky pads are attached to the chest and shoulders
  • You'll be asked to begin walking or cycling on a treadmill or stationary bike
  • The pace or slope of the treadmill or resistance for the bike are gradually increased while measurements are taken over 5-15 minutes

You will be asked to make as much effort as you can. The test is designed to work the heart harder than usual, but not too hard to cope with.

You can always ask for the test to be stopped if there's discomfort or trouble breathing.

After the test you should be OK to carry on with usual activities.

The results will be analysed by cardiac physiologists and will usually be available through the doctor who arranged the test.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 01, 2016

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