An implantable medical device (IMD) performs periodic testing of a patient to determine ischemia threshold information. At selected times while the patient is at rest, the IMD increases the pacing rate over time until it receives feedback either from the patient or from an ischemia sensor. The IMD determines the threshold based upon the pacing rate at the time when the feedback was received. The threshold information can be used to adjust the upper pacing rate that can be used during rate adaptive pacing, to determine the effects of drug therapy, and to provide a general indication of the state of coronary artery disease in the patient. The periodic increase of pacing rate to the ischemic zone also provides a preconditioning of the myocardium to allow the patient greater exercise benefit without angina.