Exercise test or cycle test

The exercise test (or cycle test) is the commonest type of stress test and is initially used to identify significantly narrowed arteries in the heart.

Before the test

  • This test is usually carried out to screen for narrowed blood vessels in the heart, which can cause the heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Medication that slows your heart rate should be stopped 48 hours before the test. The test will only be able to demonstrate an underlying problem in the coronary arteries if your medication has been stopped in this way. It is therefore recommended to discuss with the cardiologist the safest way to stop your beta blockers and calcium antagonists. If you have problems weaning down or stopping your medications, you should contact your GP or the cardiologist providing your treatment.
  • It is advisable to wear clothing in which you can cycle comfortably.

The test

  1. The risk of a stress test is extremely small, but not non-existent. In most cases close monitoring means that any complications such as rhythm problems can be dealt with quickly and appropriately. If you have symptoms such as chest pain during the cycle test, you must inform the doctor immediately.
  2. While you are sitting on a bicycle, four electrodes will be placed on your back and six on your chest, and a blood pressure meter will also be placed on your arm.
  3. You will start cycling at a basic load of 50 Watts, at a specific pace. Every two minutes the resistance will be increased by 25 Watts and you should maintain a specific pace for several minutes or up to quarter of an hour. The aim is to achieve the highest possible level of exertion.
  4. During this test your heart rate, blood pressure and electrocardiogram will be closely checked and any symptoms or problems will be closely monitored.
  5. An effort is always made to ensure that your heart rate is increased to at least 85% of the theoretical maximum heart rate, because at this level the exercise test is sensitive enough to detect narrowed coronary arteries.

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