The Cleveland Clinic

Heart Disease and Stress Tests

Exercise Stress Test Introduction

A stress test can be used to test for heart disease. Stress tests are tests performed by a doctor and/or trained technician to determine the amount of stress that your heart can manage before developing either an abnormal rhythm or evidence of ischemia (not enough blood flow to the heart muscle). The most commonly performed stress test is the exercise stress test.

What Is an Exercise Stress Test?

The exercise stress test -- also called a stress test, exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, or stress ECG -- is a test used to provide information about how the heart responds to exertion. It usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike at increasing levels of difficulty, while your electrocardiogram, heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored.

Why Do I Need a Stress Test?

Your doctor uses the stress test to:

  • Determine if there is adequate blood flow to your heart during increasing levels of activity.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your heart medications to control angina and ischemia.
  • Determine the likelihood of having coronary heart disease and the need for further evaluation.
  • Check the effectiveness of procedures done to improve blood flow within the heart vessels in people with coronary heart disease.
  • Identify abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Help you develop a safe exercise program.

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