An exercise stress test, which uses a treadmill to get you moving, is one way doctors check the health of your heart and arteries. Your health care provider may recommend a stress test if you have symptoms such as chest pain or if you’re at an elevated risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease.
If you’re having symptoms of heart trouble or you’re concerned about your heart health, we can help. Cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, and the team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists are on the cutting edge of cardiovascular care.
Our team uses the latest tools and advancements to diagnose and treat a full range of cardiovascular conditions. If you have a treadmill stress test on the horizon, here’s what you should know.
Why do I need a treadmill stress test?
The most common reason doctors order a stress test is to check for narrowing or blockage of your coronary arteries. There are two main coronary arteries that both branch out into smaller coronary arteries. This special network of blood vessels delivers oxygenated blood to your heart.
One way to detect narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries is to check how well the heart works under the increased oxygen demand of physical activity. While it’s commonly referred to as a treadmill stress test, your doctor may use a stationary exercise bike.
Significantly narrowed arteries still may provide enough oxygenated blood to the heart when you’re at rest. However, clogged blood vessels are less able to deliver enough oxygenated blood when the heart has to work hard during physical activity. This makes the exercise stress test a good way to check how well your heart and circulatory system are working.
What does the exercise stress test involve?
The test is straightforward. You walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while connected to wires and a cuff that transmits information about your vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity of the heart.
You begin moving and incrementally increase your speed and difficulty. The goal is to get your heart working to at least 85% of its maximum capacity. Your provider monitors your breathing and watches for symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, leg pain, or unusual fatigue.
Most people don’t make it through all seven stages of the test. As long as you hit 85% of your maximum heart rate, your provider can gain important insight into how well your heart works under stress.
At CA Heart and Vein Specialists, we use nuclear imaging during stress tests. That means isotope tracers and special cameras help us observe the flow of blood to the heat muscles at rest and during exercise. This advanced procedure gives us clear pictures that can show if blood isn’t flowing well to parts of your heart.
How do I prepare for the treadmill stress test?
There’s no special physical training necessary to prepare for an exercise stress test. You should wear comfortable, loose clothing that you can move in easily. Avoid eating, smoking, or drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages within three hours of your test.
Your doctor may instruct you to avoid certain medications like beta blockers the day of or day before your test because these drugs can interfere with the heart’s response to physical activity. However, don’t stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor first.
If you have a chronic condition, tell your doctor. For instance, people with diabetes must eat to keep their blood sugar stable and may need to check their glucose levels before the test.
To schedule a heart health checkup and to receive expert care for all of your cardiovascular needs, call 657-206-8491 or schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane using our online booking system.