Diabetes and Stress Tests
How Should I Prepare for the Exercise Stress Test?
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on what to do before your stress test. These may include:
- Do not eat or drink anything except water for four hours before the test.
- Do not drink or eat foods containing caffeine for 12 hours before the test. Caffeine can interfere with the results of your test.
- You may be told not to take certain heart or blood pressure medications the morning of the test that may interfere with the results. If you have any questions about your medications, ask your doctor. Do not discontinue any medication without first talking with your doctor.
- If you use an inhaler for your breathing, you may need to bring it to the test.
What If I Have Diabetes?
If you have diabetes and are scheduled for a stress test, ask your doctor about your medication:
- If you take insulin to control your blood sugar, ask your doctor what amount of your medication you should take the day of the test and if you should eat a light meal.
- If you take pills to control your blood sugar, you may be told to wait and take your medication after the test is complete.
- Do not take your diabetes medication and skip a meal before the test.
- If you own a glucose monitor, bring it with you to check your blood sugar levels before and after your exercise stress test. If you think that your blood sugar is low, tell the lab personnel immediately.
What Should I Wear the Day of the Test?
Wear soft-soled shoes suitable for walking and comfortable clothes. Do not bring valuables.
What Happens During the Exercise Stress Test?
During an exercise stress test, a technician will first gently clean 10 small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.
Before you start exercising, the technician will perform an EKG, to measure your heart rate at rest and will take your blood pressure.
You will begin to exercise by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle. The rate of exercise, or degree of difficulty will gradually increase. You will be asked to exercise until you feel exhausted or start having any symptoms.
At regular intervals, the lab personnel will ask how you are feeling. Please tell them if you feel chest, arm, or jaw pain or discomfort, short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, or any other unusual symptoms. It is normal for your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and perspiration to increase during the test. The lab personnel will watch for any symptoms or changes on the ECG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped.