Treadmill Stress Test

A treadmill stress test is a screening tool used to test the effect of exercise on your heart and to screen for coronary artery disease. A technician will prepare you for the test by connecting electrodes to your chest. These will be attached to a monitor which will display your heart rate and rhythm during the test. A physician or specially trained nurse will monitor your heart during the test. You will begin walking on the treadmill slow and on a slight grade. Gradually (usually every three minutes), the treadmill will get faster and steeper. You heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure, and symptoms will be constantly monitored during the test. The test will continue until:

  • You reach your target heart rate or maximum level of exertion
  • The EKG shows that your heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen
  • You develop clinical symptoms which are worrisome, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or a change in your heart rhythm
  • You develop some other symptom which prevents you from walking, such as back pain or leg pain.

You will be monitored after the test until your heart rate and blood pressure return close to baseline.

Stress tests are generally safe. Some patients may have mild chest pain or dizziness. A heart attack or dangerous heart rhythm is rare.

How to Prepare for the Test

  • You do not have to be fasting, but it is best not to smoke or eat a heavy meal within two hours of the test.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing to allow you to exercise.
  • Ask your health care provider if you should take your regular medicines on the day of the test. Some medicines may interfere with test results. Never stop taking any medicine without first talking to your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking sildenafil citrate (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) and have taken a dose within the past 24 to 48 hours.

What if my test is abnormal?

Your cardiologist will discuss the results with you upon completion of the test.

When you have an abnormal exercise stress test, you may have other tests performed on your heart:

  • Coronary angiography
  • Nuclear stress test
  • Stress echocardiography