Cardiac stress tests help determine how well your heart functions when working the hardest. During the test, you will exercise while being monitored by an electrocardiogram (EKG) that records your heart rate. Stress tests help your doctor determine how well your heart pumps blood and oxygen and is used to determine an integral aspect of your health. If you are a smoker, have risk factors for heart disease, or have been experiencing chest pain or discomfort, your doctor may order a stress test.
Stress tests are completed in a supervised medical environment with trained professionals. While the test is generally a safe practice, your doctor will screen you for any potential problems beforehand, so you can avoid complications. However, there is some preparation that must be done before doing a stress test.
Physical Exam Before the Stress Test
Stress tests are usually ordered if people experience any or all of the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Preparing for an exercise program
- Recent heart surgery
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Family history of heart disease or cardiovascular problems
Before your stress test, your doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and obtain a comprehensive medical history. During this phase, it’s important that you are honest with your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing as well as any pre-existing health conditions that you have. Furthermore, if you have any conditions that make exercise difficult or risky, such as diabetes or arthritis, you should speak with your doctor openly about your symptoms. This physical exam will help prevent and prepare for any potential complications that may occur during the stress test.
How to Prepare for the Stress Test
Before you head into your doctor’s office for your cardiac stress test, you should avoid smoking, eating, and drinking caffeinated beverages for at least three hours before your test. In addition, there are certain medications that your doctor may ask you to stop taking before your test. It’s critical that you follow your doctor’s instructions. After all, certain medications and factors can alter the results of the test. Lastly, make sure to tell your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms the morning of your tests – such as chest pains or other complications.
Performing a Stress Test
When you arrive for a stress test in Dallas, our compassionate staff will greet you with a warm welcome and make sure you have everything you need. Then, before you start the test, your doctor will hook you up to an EKG machine by attaching several sticky pads to your skin. A doctor or nurse will record your breathing and heart rate before you start exercising, and he or she may test the strength of your lungs.
You will start the test slowly by walking on a treadmill. Then, the speed and resistance of the treadmill will slowly increase as the test continues. However, if you experience any symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, or chest pains, you should speak up immediately and let your doctor know. In the event of a complication, your doctor will stop the test.
Once your doctor has everything he or she needs and is satisfied with the data collected during the test, you will stop exercising. Often times you will exercise until you reach a target heart rate that is predetermined by your healthcare provider. Lastly, your breathing and heart rate will continue to be monitored for several minutes after the test is complete. After the test, your doctor will provide you with water and a place to rest. In some cases, your blood pressure will be monitored as well.
Stress Test Follow-Up
If you take advantage of our concierge medicine services, you will have the results for your stress test the next day. When you receive your results, your doctor will go over them with you and discuss what they mean. Depending on the results of your stress test, your doctor may recommend a treatment regimen, medication, or lifestyle changes to support better heart health.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of heart disease or chest pains, contact Executive Medicine of Texas today to see if you could benefit from a cardiac stress test.