Ask the doctor: Can medications make the heart stronger, like exercise does?

Q. When a friend of mine had a stress test, his doctor gave him a medication to make his heart work harder, instead of having him run on a treadmill. Does that mean medications could replace exercise to strengthen the heart?

A. When a person can't or shouldn't exercise, doctors use medications instead of a treadmill to conduct a stress test. Some of these medicines (such as dobutamine) make heart muscles work harder; others (such as adenosine) widen the coronary arteries.

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