What is a Stress Test?

What is a stress test? A heart stress test is a non-invasive test that measures the ability of your heart to react to external pressure in a controlled medical environment. The stress reaction is normally induced either by exercise or by electrical stimulation. The results of the test can indicate the existence of any of a large number of conditions, some of which may not even be related to heart disease.

For instance, high blood pressure can result from a buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of arteries, enlarged heart and abnormal heart rhythms. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a stress test, to see if there is indeed a link between the two. The ECG or electrocardiogram can also reveal some subtle irregularities in your heart rhythm. Such irregularities may in turn lead to other more serious medical conditions.

There are many reasons why a doctor might want to perform an echocardiogram or stress test. One is to detect the progression of diseases like coronary artery disease or heart failure, in patients suspected of having atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Another reason might be to treat someone suspected of having congestive heart failure – such as arrhythmia – by monitoring the response of the heart to physical stimuli. And if these indications are found to be normal, then the patient might be advised to undergo a stress test as a way of investigating the underlying cause. Some people might question the wisdom of a heart stress test as it is thought that such a procedure could cause unnecessary discomfort for the patient. However, the long-term effect of stress on the body cannot be overlooked, and it has been proven that the increased heart rate that is caused by exercise is accompanied by a corresponding drop in blood pressure.