What is a cardiac stress test?

Cardiac stress tests or “treadmill tests” are used to help determine the cause of chest pain. These tests serve as a guide for further testing and treatment and may be performed in conjunction with echocardiograms and nuclear cardiac imaging if further evaluation is needed.

A cardiac stress test measures the heart's ability to respond to external stress, such as strenuous physical exercise. It records the heart's activity using electrodes while you exercise for about 15 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike. The test also takes into account how your blood pressure and pulse change over the course of the activity. All of this helps determine if your heart still works well, even when it is working hard. A cardiac stress test is one common diagnostic test for atrial fibrillation.
Cardiac stress tests measure the health of your heart while it is working hard. In a stress test, you exercise to increase your heart's workload, which increases the blood flowing to your heart. If you are unable to exercise, medication is used to increase the blood flow to the heart. Depending on your condition and which type of stress test you have, your heart's response is measured in various ways, which may include electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs) and imaging tests. These tests help your doctor assess blood flow to different areas of the heart muscle.

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