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Stress Testing


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2021| Content last modified May 2021
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What is a stress test?

A stress test lets doctors see how your heart works when it’s under stress, such as when you exercise. Many heart problems are easier for your doctor to find when your heart is working hard.

Why would I need a stress test?

Most often, you'd have a stress test if you're having chest pain Chest Pain Chest pain is a very common complaint. Pain may be sharp or dull, although some people with a chest disorder describe their sensation as discomfort, tightness, pressure, gas, burning, or aching... read more . You might also need a stress test if you have a heart disorder and your doctor wants to see if it's getting worse.

How is a stress test done?

Doctors will stop the test when:

  • Your heart rate nears the maximum recommended rate for your age

  • Your symptoms get too uncomfortable — you may have chest pain or feel like you can’t catch your breath

  • Your ECG or blood pressure readings show something abnormal

Are there any side effects to a stress test?

Usually you'll exercise hard enough to feel strain and puff for breath. If you have a heart problem, you might feel chest pain or become aware of your heart beats during the test. Although rare, you could have a heart attack Heart Attack A heart attack is when blood flow to part of your heart is suddenly blocked and some of your heart muscle dies. Doctors use the term myocardial infarction to refer to a heart attack. Myocardium... read more Heart Attack during the test. But your doctor will monitor you during the test to be ready for any problems.

What can my doctor learn from the stress test?

Stress tests help doctors:

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