Exercise Treadmill Testing
Exercise treadmill testing is usually one of the first tests performed when a patient’s heart health is in question. Sometimes the test is included in a complete physical exam that may be required for employment or sports participation. Physicians often schedule routine treadmill stress tests as part of an annual exam for patients over 50 years old. Exercise treadmill testing is frequently conducted as part of the follow-up care of a cardiac patient, also. For a patient that has been diagnosed with a heart condition or has had surgery, the test can be used to help verify the patient’s continued progress and stability.
The purpose of an exercise treadmill test is to evaluate the electrical activity of the heart while under the stress of physical activity; many heart disease indicators may not be revealed during an “at rest” electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). This is accomplished by recording the electrical activity of the heart with an electrocardiograph machine. Electrodes, that transmit the electrical signals from the heart to the machine, are attached to the patient. The machine records and displays all of the transmitted data onto paper. The electrocardiographic information can then be reviewed by the technician and physician.
Prior to your scheduled treadmill stress test, you should ask the doctor about taking any daily medications that you are prescribed. When you go to your appointment, dress comfortably and wear suitable shoes. Do not eat or drink anything for at least three hours before the appointment. Before the stress test begins, your blood pressure and heart rate will be noted. Electrodes will be placed in specific locations to monitor your electrical heart activity. Your “at rest” electrocardiographic heart activity may or may not be briefly recorded before the stress test begins.
You will begin the treadmill test at a relatively slow pace. The pace and incline level will be increased at three minute intervals throughout the test. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored during the test. Today’s test treadmills have a monitor that displays data during the test, as well. You will continue on the treadmill until your heart rate reaches 85% of your targeted rate (this figure is calculated according to your age). If you exhibit dangerous symptoms during the activity, the test will be stopped abruptly. After the treadmill test, your blood pressure and heart rate will be noted again.
The entire process should take about an hour. Usually, you will be provided with a brief summary of the test results after the test is completed. Later, after the results have been reviewed and evaluated, Dr. Alonso will discuss the test results with you. Depending on the doctor’s assessment, more testing may or may not be recommended.