A cardiac stress test is used to monitor your heart rhythm, heart rate, and any changes to your heart rhythm as you exercise. This test will help your physician to diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). Physicians order this test for the following reasons:
- Strong family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Chest pain or heart palpitations
- Follow up from a previous heart attack, angioplasty, bypass surgery, or stent insertion
- For the Lifestyle Education and Experience Program (LEEP – before and after attending the program)
- As a part of an annual check up
- As part of your Chest Pain Clinic appointment
To have a cardiac stress test, your doctor needs to fill out a requisition form. Download cardiac stress test requisition form.
A cardiology technologist will perform the cardiac stress test. A physician will be present during the test to supervise and provide guidance to the technologist.
Download the cardiac stress test brochure.
Before, During, and After Your Cardiac Stress Test
On the day of your cardiac stress test, please exclude caffeine products, alcohol, and smoking. Caffeine products include: coffee and tea (decaffeinated and caffeinated), chocolate, cocoa, soda, pop, and any medication or supplements that may have caffeine. It is recommended you stop using beta blockers 48 hours before your test. Check with your physician and/or pharmacist before stopping your medication.
You may have a light meal approximately two hours before your appointment. Bring loose-fitting, comfortable, short-sleeved exercise clothing (T-shirt and shorts or jogging pants), and rubber-soled shoes (running shoes). Do not wear a dress or skirt. Women must wear a bra for exercise. Please do not wear jewellery or perfume for your test. If you use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing problems, bring it to the test and let the technologist know. Bring a complete list of medication to your appointment.
Please arrive 30 minutes before your test to check in at the registration desk in the main lobby. Please bring your health card and your requisition (if your physician has provided you with one).
During Your Cardiac Stress Test
When you arrive for your cardiac stress test, we will explain the procedure to you.
You will be:
- Hooked up to equipment to monitor your heart and blood pressure
- Walking slowly on the treadmill. The speed will be increased slowly at certain intervals to increase your heart rate.
- Continuously monitored by the technologist to record your heart rhythm and blood pressure throughout the test.
- Finished the test when you reach your target heart rate.
- Asked to lie down after the test so your blood pressure and heart rate can be recorded again.
Please allow one hour to complete your test.
After Your Cardiac Stress Test
There will be a five-minute rest period after the test where the technologist will continue to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure until they return to your baseline. After the test, you may return to your regular activities.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cardiac Stress Test
You will need to walk/run however long it takes for your heart to reach its maximum target heart rate. For most people, this will take six to 12 minutes.
This test is accurate and represents the first step in determining if you have coronary artery disease.
We ask you to continue as long as you can and the report will be based on the information gathered.
There is a slight risk to stressing your heart and the consent form allows you to be treated should problems occur during your test.
Please let your physician know this and an alternate test can be ordered (i.e., persantine cardiolite).
Please check with your pharmacist and/or physician but some common examples are atenolol and metoprolol.
The goal of the test is to increase your heart rate with exercise. Beta blockers prevent your heart rate from increasing and will not provide optimal information for your doctor.