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Physical Tests for Diagnosing Heart Disease

After an initial physical examination, your doctor may order one or more physical tests to help diagnose your heart condition. This may include a cardiac stress test, blood tests for heart disease or other physical tests. The type of test your doctor recommends will be based on your symptoms and or heart disease risk factors.

What Is a Physical Stress Test?

Physical stress tests are among the most common diagnostic tests for heart problems. 

Depending on your cardiac symptoms, your doctor may order one of these types of tests:

  • Exercise stress test
  • Nuclear stress test – an exercise stress test with nuclear imaging, sometimes called a chemical stress test
  • Pharmacological (medication) stress test with nuclear imaging
  • Echo stress test – an exercise stress test with echo imaging
  • Dobutamine (medication) stress test with echo imaging

You don't need to follow any special instructions before your stress test, but you may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing to your appointment.

After you arrive, one of our team members will take you to the stress test room where a technician will attach small stickers with metal disks (electrodes) to your chest. The technician will attach wires from the electrodes to an electrocardiogram machine so our heart care team can monitor your heart during the stress test. We'll also monitor your blood pressure and oxygen level.

You may need to walk or run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike during your exercise stress test. If you have a medication stress test, you will get medication through an intravenous (IV) line.

What Blood Tests Check for Heart Problems?

Blood tests are commonly used to determine your risk of heart attack, heart disease or vascular disease. Examining your cholesterol levels or blood pressure, for example, can help your doctor assess your heart health. 

Your doctor may also order a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP is a protein that your liver produces in response to inflammation. This test alone won’t tell your risk of heart disease but when factored in with other test results it can give a broader picture of what’s happening with your heart and overall health.