A cardiac stress test is used to monitor the heart rhythm, heart rate and changes to the heart rhythm as you exercise.
You will be:
- Hooked up to equipment to monitor your heart and blood pressure
- Walking slowly on the treadmill. The speed will be increased slowly at certain intervals to increase your heart rate.
- Continuously monitored by the technologist to record your heart rhythm and blood pressure throughout the test.
- Finished the test when you reach your target heart rate.
- Instructed to lie down after the test so your blood pressure and heart rate can be recorded again.
This test will help your physician to diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). Physicians order this test for the following reasons:
- Strong family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Chest pain or heart palpitations
- Follow up from a previous heart attack, angioplasty, bypass surgery or stent insertion.
- For the stroke LEEP (lifestyle education and experience program) (before and after)
- As a part of an annual check up
- Part of your chest pain clinic appointment
Download the cardiac stress test brochure.
What you should know
- Before Your Visit
On the day of your cardiac stress test, please exclude caffeine products, alcohol and smoking. Caffeine products include: coffee and tea (decaffeinated and caffeinated), chocolate, cocoa, soda, pop and any medication or supplements that may have caffeine. It is recommended you stop using beta blockers 48 hours before your test. Check with your physician and/or pharmacist before stopping your medication.
You may have a light meal approximately two hours before your appointment. Bring loose-fitting, comfortable, short-sleeved exercise clothing (t-shirt and shorts or jogging pants) and rubber-soled shoes (running shoes). Do not wear a dress or skirt. Women must wear a bra for exercise. Please do not wear jewellery or perfume for your test. If you use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing problems, bring it to the test and let the technologist know. Bring a complete list of medication to your appointment.
Please arrive 30 minutes before your test to register at the central registration desk in Building A. Please bring your health card and your requisition (if your physician has provided you with one).
- During Your Visit
When you arrive for your cardiac stress test, we will explain the procedure to you. We will attach a blood pressure cuff to your arm and ECG electrodes on your chest. You will be walking or running on a treadmill until your heart reaches its target heart rate. Please allow one hour to complete your test.
- After Your Visit
There will be a five minute rest period after the test where the technologist will continue to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure until they return to your baseline. After the test, you may return to your regular activities.
- Care Providers
A cardiology technologist will perform the cardiac stress test. A physician will be present during the test (as well) to supervise and provide guidance to the technologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long do I have to walk/run on the treadmill?
However long it takes for your heart to reach its maximum target heart rate. For most people, this will take six to 12 minutes.
- How accurate is the stress test?
This test is accurate and represents the first step in determining if you have coronary artery disease.
- What if I cannot complete the test?
We ask you to continue as long as you can and the report will be based on the information gathered.
- What is a normal heart rate and blood pressure?
A normal range of blood pressure is from 120/80. Normal heart rate range is from 60 to 100.
- Why do I have to sign a consent form?
There is a slight risk to stressing your heart and the consent form allows you to be treated should problems occur during your test.
- What if I cannot walk on the treadmill ( i.e. use a cane, or walker)?
Please let your physician know this and an alternate test can be ordered (i.e. persantine cardiolite).
- What are beta blockers?
Please check with your pharmacist and /or physician but some common examples are: Atenolol Metoprolol
- Why do I need to stop my beta blockers?
The goal of the test is to increase your heart rate with exercise. Beta blockers prevent your heart rate from increasing and will not provide optimal information for your doctor.