Harvard Heart Letter

The exercise stress test: What to expect

Once done as part of a routine check-up, exercise stress tests are now done mostly to diagnose possible heart disease in people with symptoms such as chest pain or breathlessness. They can also help determine how hard a person should exercise. During the test, a person walks on a treadmill at progressively faster speeds while an electrocardiogram (ECG) measures the heart rate and the heart’s electrical activity. Findings from the test may suggest a need for further testing or treatment. 
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