I'm Nervous About My Stress Test: What Can I Expect?

Are you scheduled for an exercise stress test? If you are, feeling anxious is entirely normal. The uncertainty of the procedure — coupled with concerns about your health — can leave you feeling on edge.

Fortunately, there’s no need to stress out about your upcoming stress test. Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute specialize in stress testing, and we’re here to answer your questions. Let's dive into what you can expect during and after your stress test.

The purpose of exercise stress tests

A stress test is a diagnostic procedure used to assess how well your heart functions during physical activity. During the test, you'll be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle while your heart function is monitored.

When you exercise, your heart works harder — and it’s easier to detect potential heart problems when your heart is working harder. We use stress tests to help diagnose heart conditions, coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms, and issues with blood flow to the heart muscle.

What to expect during your stress test

We do stress tests in our office. It’s a simple, noninvasive procedure, and here’s what happens.

Preparation

Before your stress test, we review your medical history and explain the procedure in detail. We give you specific instructions to prepare, which might include avoiding caffeine, avoiding eating, and making temporary modifications to your medications before the test.

On the day of your test, arrive wearing clothing and shoes that are comfortable for exercise. We listen to your heart and lungs, then get you set up for your stress test.

Monitoring

We place a blood pressure cuff on your arm and electrodes on your chest before you start your stress test. The electrodes monitor your heart's electrical activity through an electrocardiogram while the cuff monitors your blood pressure throughout the test.

Exercise

You start your stress test by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at a gradual pace. We instruct you to gradually increase your intensity until you reach a target heart rate.

We monitor you closely throughout the entire test, but communication is essential. Tell us right away if you experience any discomfort or symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath.

What happens after your stress test

After you maintain your target heart rate for a period of time, your stress test is over. We remove the blood pressure cuff and electrodes, and you’re free to go about your day. There’s no downtime required after a stress test, but you might experience some fatigue or muscle soreness from the exercise.

Dr. Patel reviews the results of your stress test and discusses them with you. If your test results indicate normal heart function, it can provide reassurance and peace of mind regarding your heart health.

If your results highlight concerns about heart function, Dr. Patel may recommend further evaluation or treatment. Taking a proactive approach or even enrolling in our Heart Smart Program can help you manage heart conditions and improve your heart health.

It’s normal to be worried about what your stress test might uncover, but understanding the process and its purpose can help alleviate some of those feelings. Stress testing is a valuable tool to assess heart function, and our team is here to guide you every step of the way.

Learn more with a consultation at NJ Cardiovascular Institute, with offices in Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, and Secaucus, New Jersey. Call us or send a message online today.

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