What Is A Cardiac Stress Test?
Doctors are often asked what is a cardiac stress test. A cardiac stress test measures the flow of blood to the heart during exercise and compares that value with the blood flow during rest. The difference between the two values reflects the amount of blood flow to the left ventricle of the heart. A cardiac stress test reflects a person's overall health, fitness level and diagnoses the extent or presence of coronary artery disease. A cardiac stress test is also called an exercise test.
A cardiac stress test is commonly administered by having a patient walk on a treadmill for a specific period of time. Patients are also given IV (intravenous) medication that stimulates physical exercise while they are connected to an ECG (electrocardiogram) machine. His or her blood pressure, heart rate and other symptoms are routinely measured.
Patients are advised not to drink, eat or smoke for at least two hours prior to the cardiac stress test. Patients are asked to wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing and running shoes. Diabetic patients are recommended to consult a doctor prior to the test for additional information.
Patients are asked to cool down by walking or lying down after the test is completed. While a cardiac stress test is generally safe, it is associated with some side effects, including fatigue, nausea, headache, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
Other types of cardiac stress tests include adenosine (or dobutamine) stress test, stress echocardiogram and a nuclear stress test. The American Heart Association recommends the ECG treadmill cardiac stress test for patients with a high risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.