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  • Justin Wolfe

What Is a Cardiac Stress Test?


For a cardiologist to accurately diagnose heart disease, several tests are carried out to best understand how well your heart performs under stress or times when it’s working its hardest. That’s where a stress test can be beneficial. This category of diagnostic testing can reveal problems that might arise while your heart is working harder and faster than it usually does. But what exactly is a stress test, and what can you expect during the procedure? Below, the professionals at Healthworks highlight what a stress test is and who can benefit from this procedure.


Why Is Cardiac Stress Testing Done?

A stress test is a very commonly performed procedure that involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike to make your heart pump harder and faster; that’s why this test is often referred to as an exercise stress test. During the analysis, a physician monitors your heart rhythm, blood pressure, oxygen levels, electrical activity in your heart, and how hard your heart works compared with others of the same age and gender. For individuals who can’t exercise, a medication is provided that creates the same effect as exercise. Your stress test results will show problems with blood flow within the heart.


Your doctor may recommend a stress test to:

  • Diagnose coronary artery disease

  • Diagnose heart rhythm problems

  • Guide treatment of heart conditions

  • Study the heart before surgery

A stress test might be good for you if you have symptoms of heart disease like the following:

  • Angina

  • Arrhythmia

  • Shortness of breath

  • Feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness

If an exercise stress test doesn't show the cause of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a different stress test, like a nuclear stress test, stress echocardiogram, or cardiac rehabilitation stress test.


What Happens During Cardiac Stress Testing?

A stress test typically takes about an hour, including the prep time. The exercise part takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Once you’re ready to begin, your healthcare provider will attach electrodes (sticky patches) to your chest. The electrodes are then connected to an electrocardiogram machine to measure and record the electrical signals that make your heart beat, more commonly known as an ECG. You will also wear a cuff on your arm to monitor your blood pressure during the test. Some patients may breathe into a tube during the trial to show how well they inhale and exhale during the exercise portion.


As the test begins, you will walk on a treadmill or bike on a stationary bike. The pace is leisurely at first, and as the examination progresses, the exercise gradually gets more challenging. The exercise portion continues until your heart reaches a target level. Your provider will ask you to stop if you develop symptoms such as:

  • Moderate to severe chest pain

  • Severe shortness of breath

  • Unusually high or low blood pressure

  • Irregular heart rhythm

  • Dizziness or extreme fatigue

Stress Test Results

After your test is finished, your doctor will review the information gathered to determine your results. The results will help your doctor decide on a treatment plan or change your current treatment method. If the test shows that your heart is working well, additional tests may be suggested.


Partnering With the Experts at Healthworks

If your hospital or office is searching for expert clinical staffing who can assist with diagnostic tests like stress tests, Healthworks can help. We provide clinical staff coverage for:

  • Invasive Cardiology (Diagnostic/Interventional)

  • Interventional Radiology

  • Electrophysiology

  • Pre- and Post-Cath/EP Procedures

  • Cardiac Stress Testing

  • Cardiac and Vascular Ultrasound

If you have any questions or are interested in learning more, contact us at 866-HWKS-INC.

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