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Don’t Stress the Stress Test: What It Is and How It Works

Heart issues can appear in a variety of ways. When life gets busy, we sometimes don't notice the little pains in our chest or our shortness of breath as we’re walking around—but these little changes have the potential to turn into something more substantial.

One helpful way to get more information about the condition of your heart and how well it performs during exertion such as exercise is to have a cardiologist perform a stress test. Let’s dive into what that means and why it may benefit you and your health.


What is a Stress Test?

A stress test is a cardiac-centered procedure used to gauge your heart’s ability to pump blood at varying levels of fitness. It’s most commonly used to assess coronary heart disease, diagnose a heart health issue, or provide you with your potential risk of a heart attack. Your results can also offer a clear understanding of how much exercise is reasonable for your body.


How Does It Work?

The stress test is a low-intensity, noninvasive experience.  . You complete the test in a stress lab, where you’re monitored by a nurse and a Cardiologist.

Here’s how it typically works:

  • First, electrodes (small sticky patches) are placed on your chest, which are connected to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor.
  • An EKG of your resting heart rate first is taken so it can be compared to the different levels of exercise.
  • Next, you begin walking on the treadmill.
  • The speed and incline will increase during the procedure.  .
  • The exercise portion t usually runs between 7 and 12 minutes.
  • During the test, you will be asked if you are experiencing any side effects, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or any other discomfort.
  • When you reach your targeted heart rate during exercise or if you cannot walk any further due to physical limitations, the test will be stopped.

Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are continuously monitored throughout the procedure. . At the end of the procedure, you’ll understand how your heart reacts to physical activity. Your results will help your cardiologist determine your heart health and if any steps need to be taken to help improve it.  .

Whether you’ve started investigating your heart health, you’ve been experiencing symptoms, or you’re worried about your family heart history—the best first step is to schedule an appointment with your primary physician or a cardiologist. They will be able to answer your questions and run any necessary tests.

If you have questions or need more information about cardiovascular procedures, contact Carrie Snyder, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC—Beebe Healthcare’s cardiac nurse navigator—by calling (844) 316-3334 or emailing [email protected].