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Exercise and Pharmacological Stress Testing

Exercise and pharmacological stress testing are diagnostic procedures used to monitor or diagnose certain cardiovascular conditions, such a patient’s risk of suffering a heart attack. Cardiologists may order these tests for individuals who are beginning a new exercise regimen or who are considered to be at risk for cardiovascular complications. These tests place a controlled but deliberate amount of stress on the heart as a cardiologist monitors vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Most stress testing is administered via a stress-inducing activity, such as running. However, patients who are physically unable to perform these exercises may be tested with medications that are designed to place stress on the heart.

Did you know…

that patients play an important role in exercise and pharmacological stress testing? Though doctors monitor each patient’s vital signs as stress is induced and increased on the heart, patients must also describe how they are feeling as the tests progress. Though the body may appear to be reacting well to stress, patients may not be feeling well. It is important to report uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as dizziness and weakness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to undergo exercise or pharmacological stress testing?

Your doctor may recommend stress testing if there is a concern for the condition and response of your heart when placed under stress. If you are beginning a new type of physical activity or are concerned about your heart’s health under physical stress, contact your doctor to find out if stress testing is right for you.

What should I expect during exercise and pharmacological stress testing?

If you are undergoing exercise stress testing, you can expect to be placed on a treadmill or asked to engage in some other physically challenging activity. You will be connected to monitors that measure your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing as the physical activity becomes more and more challenging. If you are undergoing pharmacological stress testing, you will not engage in exercise, but instead, will be given a medication designed to increase blood flow to your heart or otherwise cause the heart to work harder.

Will I need to follow any special instructions following my test?

Your doctor will discuss the results of your stress testing with you and may ask you undergo additional testing or return periodically for additional stress tests. Your doctor may recommend avoiding certain activities and situations, as well staying within a specific heart rate range during exercise.