A stress test is a procedure that collects data about how a patient's heart performs during physical activity, according to Mayo Clinic. The test usually involves having the blood pressure, heart rhythm and breathing monitored while walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationery bicycle.
Exercise makes the heart pump faster and harder, and a stress test can reveal issues that would not be noticeable otherwise, Mayo Clinic reports. Doctors recommend a stress test to determine if a patient has a irregular heartbeat rhythm or coronary artery disease. It can also help doctors determine the appropriate treatment if a patient already has a diagnosed heart condition.
Before the test, a nurse places electrodes in several places on the body that are attached to an electrocardiogram machine, Mayo Clinic explains. This records the heart's electrical signals during the test. A cuff is usually placed on the arm to measure blood pressure. The exercise starts slowly and increases in intensity as the test progresses.
Exercise continues until the patient reaches a target heart level or develops conditions that require them to stop, Mayo Clinic states. These conditions include certain changes recorded on the electrocardiogram, moderate to severe chest pain, dizziness, severe shortness of breath, an abnormal heart rhythm, or abnormally high or low blood pressure.