Overview of Stress Testing

A stress test is technique that involves stressing the heart and monitoring the heart's reaction. A stress test helps evaluate the heart's capacity for work. The test can use exercise, medication, or both to induce stress, and can use electrocardiography, echocardiography, and/or nuclear imaging to monitor and assess the heart.

There are two ways to induce the necessary stress for a stress test. These can be used alone or together:

  • Exercise: An exercise stress test examines your heart function under the stress of exercise. It requires you to walk on a treadmill (or ride a stationary bicycle) at gradually increasing workloads.
  • Medication: If you can't exercise at a level that stresses your heart — for example, you have arthritis or some other problem that limits your activity — your healthcare provider can administer a medication that stimulates your heart.

Before, during, and after a stress test, your healthcare providers monitor your vital signs and your EKG. A stress test can also be combined with other testing — such as an echocardiogram or nuclear imaging — to provide even more information.

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