Stress testing provides information about how your heart works during physical stress. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast. During stress testing, you exercise (walk or run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike) to make your heart work hard and beat fast. Tests are performed on your heart while you exercise.
You may not have any signs or symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD) when your heart is at rest. But when your heart has to work harder during exercise, it needs more blood and oxygen. Narrow arteries can’t supply enough blood for your heart to work well. As a result, signs and symptoms of CHD may occur only during exercise.
In some instances, patients may have another medical problem that prevents them from exercising during a stress test. If so, your doctor may prescribe medicine to make your heart work hard, as it would during exercise. This is called a pharmacological stress test.
A stress test can detect a number of problems, which may suggest that your heart isn’t getting enough blood during exercise. These may include abnormal changes in your heart rate or blood pressure; symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, especially if they occur at low levels of exercise; and abnormal changes in your heart’s rhythm or electrical activity.
During a stress test, if you can’t exercise for as long as what is considered normal for someone your age, it may be a sign that not enough blood is flowing to your heart. However, other factors besides CHD can prevent you from exercising long enough (for example, lung disease, anemia, or poor general fitness).Previous Page Last Review Date: August 14, 2019