Senior author Ezra Amsterdam, professor of cardiovascular medicine at University of California, Davis, said there is a widespread belief among physicians that the exercise treadmill test is not reliable in evaluating the heart health of women.
However, Amsterdam and colleagues said the test was an accessible, economic and easy-to-administer evaluation of patients with heart disease symptoms.
Amsterdam and colleagues analyzed 111 women who had seen their doctors because of chest pain and whose exercise treadmill tests were "positive," indicating they should have further cardiovascular testing.
Coronary angiography was performed on each patient, and the researchers analyzed how often the results showed definite evidence of arterial narrowing.
The study, published in The American Journal of Cardiology, found overall only half of the women with positive treadmill tests had coronary artery disease as determined by coronary angiography, but when test results were evaluated by age, the predictive value of exercise treadmill test rose.
The treadmill test predicted arterial disease in only 36 percent of the youngest group aged 35-50, but it successfully identified the condition in 68 percent of those age 65 years and older, the study found.