Daily living and physical activity put stress on your heart. Many people handle this stress just fine. Others may experience chest pain or discomfort.

A stress test gives doctors a real-time look at how your heart functions under stress. This snapshot of your heart’s performance helps detect certain heart conditions.

An electrocardiogram test is one of many cardiovascular diagnostic tests we offer at Baptist Health.

What Is a Stress Test?

A stress test is a non-invasive diagnostic tool doctors use to assess how well your heart functions when it is working its hardest.

The most common type of stress test is an exercise stress test. This stress test shows how well your heart works when performing certain physical activities, like brisk walking, jogging or climbing stairs.

During an exercise stress test, you are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine and blood pressure monitor. You’ll then walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike.

As your activity level increases, doctors measure your heart rate and blood pressure, and monitor your heart’s electrical activity. This information helps doctors identify abnormalities or concerns about your heart's function.

In addition to the standard exercise stress test, there are several other types of stress tests. Your doctor will determine which is best for you based on your symptoms.

  • Pharmacological stress test. This type of stress test is an alternative to an exercise stress test. You may need a pharmacological stress test if you cannot exercise due to a medical condition. During a pharmacological stress test, doctors give you medication to mimic the stress on your heart and then monitor your heart’s response.
  • Nuclear stress test. This test involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive substance into your bloodstream. Doctors then use a special camera to create images of blood flow to your heart before and after exercise or medication. A nuclear stress test helps doctors identify blockages.
  • Stress echocardiogram. This test combines an echocardiogram with an exercise or pharmacological stress test. A stress echocardiogram gives doctors a view of how well your heart's chambers and valves are functioning.
  • Cardiac stress MRI. This test uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce a detailed view of your heart's structure and function during stress. A cardiac stress MRI assesses blood flow and identifies damaged heart tissue.
Am I a Candidate for a Stress Test?

Am I a Candidate for a Stress Test?

Your doctor may recommend a stress test to monitor a diagnosed heart condition, check the effectiveness of specific heart treatments, or evaluate your heart’s function before certain surgeries or medical procedures.

You may also need a stress test if you are at risk for certain heart conditions or have specific heart-related risk factors or symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, particularly during physical activity
  • Family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Personal history of smoking

If you think you may need a stress test, a Baptist Health cardiologist can conduct a medical examination and prescribe a stress test if appropriate.

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