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Stress test

A cardiac stress test is a medical test that indirectly reflects arterial blood flow to the heart during physical exercise. When compared to blood flow during rest, the test reflects imbalances of blood flow to the heart's left ventricular muscle tissue - the part of the heart that performs the greatest amount of work pumping blood.

The results may also be interpreted as a reflection on a person's overall physical fitness.


Test overview
The patient runs on a treadmill while connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, usually with the standard 10 connections used to record a 12-lead ECG. The level of exercise is increased in 3-minute stages of progressively increased grade (% incline) and speed (mph, km/h, etc.). The patient's symptoms and blood pressure response are repeatedly checked. When using ECG and blood pressure monitoring alone the test is variously called a cardiac stress test, exercise stress test, exercise treadmill test, exercise tolerance test, stress test or exercise ECG test.


Purpose
ECG treadmill testing as the first choice for patients with medium risk of coronary heart disease based on the risk factors of smoking, family history of coronary stenosis, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.


Preparation
Prior to a stress test one should not eat or drink for a couple of hours. You should however be very well hydrated before you begin. One may also be asked to refrain from smoking prior to the test. If you are undergoing some kind of medical treatments take all your medications prior to a stress test, unless told otherwise by the physician in charge . All individuals who use heart medications and inhalers for their asthma should bring them to the stress test center. Let the doctor know if you have diabetes; since exercise can lower blood sugar, he or she may want to check your blood sugar level before the test begins.

Comfortable loose clothes for exercising and running shoes are the best clothing items to wear for such a test.


After the test
Once the stress test has been completed, you will be asked to walk for a while and cool down. Then you will also be asked to lie down and recover. All this still with the monitors in place. Only after the readings have returned to baseline normal will you be discharged and sent home. Once the test has been completed, you can resume your daily living activities closely following any indications that the doctor (s) give you. The best cool-down after the test or any exercise activity is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.

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