KDMC Stress Lab
What Is Stress Testing?
Stress testing gives your doctor information about how your heart works during physical stress. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast.
During a stress test, you exercise (walk or run on a treadmill or pedal a bicycle) to make your heart work hard and beat fast. Tests are done on your heart while you exercise.
You may have arthritis or another medical problem that prevents you from exercising during a stress test. If so, your doctor may give you medicine to make your heart work hard, as it would during exercise. This is called a pharmacological stress test.
Doctors usually use stress testing to help diagnose coronary heart disease (CHD). They also use stress testing to see how severe CHD is in people who have it.
CHD is a condition in which a fatty material called plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. It also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partly or completely block blood flow. This can lead to chest pain or a heart attack.
You may not have any signs or symptoms of CHD when your heart is at rest. But when your heart has to work harder during exercise, it needs more blood and oxygen. Narrowed arteries can't supply enough blood for your heart to work well. As a result, signs and symptoms of CHD may only occur during exercise.
Stress tests help your doctor to:
Determine if there is adequate blood flow to your heart during increasing levels of activity.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your heart medications to control angina and ischemia.
Determine the likelihood of coronary heart disease and the need for further evaluation.
Check the effectiveness of procedures done to improve blood flow within the heart vessels in people with coronary heart disease.
Identify abnormal heart rhythms.
Help you develop a safe exercise program.
During a stress test, if you can't exercise for as long as what's considered normal for someone your age, it may be a sign that not enough blood is flowing to your heart. However, other factors besides CHD can prevent you from exercising long enough (for example, lung disease, anemia, or poor general fitness).