Blog Post

Understanding the Different Types of Stress Tests

Stress testing isn’t a measure of how chaotic your life is (though we know it is). Stress testing is a clinical cardiology test we use to evaluate how well your heart functions when it’s operating at maximum capacity. Essentially, we force your heart to pump harder to detect problems that don’t show their faces until you get your blood pumping. 

Stress tests are more advanced these days, and we can perform different types to get even more information about what we suspect is going on in your ticker. 

In this blog, Dr. Fahmi Farah at Bentley Heart in Fort Worth, Texas, highlights three of the most common types of stress testing so you know what to expect before you arrive. 

1. Bruce protocol exercise treadmill test

When you think of stress testing, you likely picture someone jogging on a treadmill hooked up to machines — that’s what we call the Bruce protocol exercise treadmill test.

During this test, we place a blood pressure cuff on your arm and electrodes on your chest to measure your heart's electrical activity. We take measurements of your heart and rest, and then you hop on a treadmill.

We turn the treadmill on and let you walk or jog for a few minutes to increase your heart rate. We may gradually increase the intensity of your workout until your heart hits a target rate or you start having chest pain. 

Dr. Farah compares the measurements of your initial resting heart rate against your heart’s functioning during exertion to determine if there’s an underlying condition. 

2. Stress echocardiography

Stress echocardiography adds an echo test to the basic treadmill test. An echo is an ultrasound exam that provides real-time moving images of your heart. 

3. Nuclear stress testing

Instead of ultrasound, we inject a radioactive dye through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm and use a special camera to take pictures of your heart at rest and after you’ve worked out on the treadmill. 

What if I can’t run on a treadmill?

If you’re worried you can’t tolerate exercise on a treadmill, don’t worry — you can still have a stress test done. We can give you a medication that increases your heart rate and gives us the same information as if you were jogging. 

Who needs a stress test?

There are many reasons you may need a stress test. Stress tests give us accurate, valuable information about your cardiovascular health, including:

  • Your blood flow
  • Potential blockages or narrowing of your arteries
  • Abnormal or irregular heartbeats
  • Your overall fitness level 
  • Your risk for heart disease

We also use stress tests to monitor ongoing heart problems and evaluate how well your treatment plan is working. 

Before we recommend a specific type of test, we carefully consider your heart and overall health history and use that information to determine which type of test is right for you. 

What else do I need to know about stress testing?

Stress testing may sound like a grueling workout, but it’s actually a safe and well-tolerated procedure. We monitor your health at every step and stop the test at the first sign of chest pain or shortness of breath. 

There’s not much you need to do to prepare for your stress test, but we do recommend that you arrive ready to work out. That means wearing comfortable clothes and supportive shoes and not eating a heavy meal right before your appointment. 

We also recommend you avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol for at least a day before your test to make sure nothing you’ve eaten affects your results. Talk to us about any medications you’re taking or pre-existing health conditions you have, as well. 

Have more questions about what a stress test means for you? We’d love to answer them all. Call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Farah today.