If your doctor has ordered a stress test, you will be exercising on a treadmill -- right in the middle of the exam room. A stress test is designed to measure the activity of your heart as you exercise. Your heart rate is measured, which can help determine if you have any heart problems or how hard you can exert yourself while engaging in physical activity. Stress tests last approximately 15 minutes and can give your doctor valuable insights regarding the function of your heart.
A stress test can be used to determine a variety of conditions, such as coronary artery disease. It can also show the effectiveness of treatment of those with coronary artery disease or a person's risk for a heart attack. Stress tests is often used to help provide a diagnoses for those suffering from chest pain, lightheadedness or shortness of breath. You may also undergo a stress tests to determine a safe level of exercise for you.
Resting Heart Rate
Prior to beginning your stress test, a technician will take your resting heart rate. It may be determined manually -- the technician may check your pulse by placing two fingers on your wrist or neck and counting the number of times your heart beats per minute. It may also be determined by an electrocardiogram ordered by your physician prior to your stress test. An electrocardiogram measures the activity of your heart through the use of electrodes on sensors placed on your skin. A resting normal heart rate for an adult -- ages 18 and older -- is 60 to 100 beats per minute. For a child, a normal resting heart rate is 70 to 100 beats per minute.
Test Heart Rate
As you complete your stress test by walking at various speeds as indicated by the technician throughout your test, your heart rate will be monitored through the use of electrodes. The actual rate of your heart will depend on the physical condition you are in and if you have any underlying health problems. A stress test can also help determine the maximum heart rate your body can achieve during exercise. After your stress test, your doctor will discuss with you your target heart rate and the amount of exercise you should be engaging in.
Remember that average heart rates -- both resting and maximum -- are just averages. Your heart rate may not fall in the normal range, which does not necessarily mean you have reason for concern. For example, if you are an athlete, your resting heart rate will likely be slower than average. Diabetes, high blood pressure and certain medications increase your heart rate. Ask your doctor about any questions or concerns you have.
- Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; NASM; 2008
- American Heart Association: Exercise Stress Test
- Cleveland Clinic: Pulse and Target Heart Rate
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Electrocardiogram