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What to Expect From a Stress Test

It’s all well and good for us to monitor your heart while you’re sitting in our exam room, but this paints only a partial picture. For example, if you experience cardiovascular symptoms when you’re on the move, we want to evaluate your heart function during these more active moments.

To gather this type of valuable information, fellowship-trained cardiologist Dr. James Kim and our team offer comprehensive stress testing. If you’ve never undergone a stress test, here’s a look at this harmless procedure, which provides us with the data we need to address your heart health.

Who needs a stress test?

Before we get into the stress test itself, let’s quickly review why we turn to this diagnostic tool. As we mentioned, our goal is to monitor your heart when it’s working harder in order to detect a wide range of issues, including:

We also use this test to determine whether your cardiovascular system is responding favorably to a particular treatment.

A step-by-step look at a stress test

To prepare for a stress test, we recommend that you bring a pair of sneakers and wear comfortable clothes; we’re going to be asking you to do a little bit of exercise. We may also ask that you refrain from eating or drinking caffeine beforehand. 

If we’ve instructed you to stop taking certain medications, please remember to do this so we can gather the most accurate information from your stress test.

When you arrive, we place electrodes around your chest and abdomen that are hooked up to an electrocardiogram system. These electrodes are designed to record the electrical activity in your heart, which is what controls your heartbeat. 

We also place a blood pressure cuff around your arm to record this vital statistic along the way.

Once everything is in place and you’re on the treadmill or stationary bike, we record the electrical activity of your heart and your blood pressure while you’re at rest to establish a baseline. Next, we ask you to start walking on the treadmill or pedaling the bike, which will be quite slow at first (under 2 mph).

From there, we gradually increase the intensity of your walking or pedaling every three minutes and continue to gather information about the function of your cardiovascular system at each level. Our goal is to reach your peak heart rate, which is typically about 80% of your maximum predicted heart rate (approximately 220 minus your age). 

Of course, we can stop at any time if you’re feeling any discomfort or you’re unable to continue.

When your test is complete, we simply remove the electrodes and blood pressure cuff, and you’re free to return home.

While the above describes a standard stress test, we may tailor one to your unique needs. For example, if you have any mobility issues, we can simulate exercise using medications.

If you have any questions about what to expect during your stress test, we invite you to contact one of our two offices in Chula Vista or National City, California.

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