This morning, I had my first ever stress test. I wrote about my heart rate before and have wondered if it might be too high for my age. Tobyjoe, who has a running heart rate of 165 (tops), has often suggested that I might just die of a heart attack when I run. When I tell people how high it goes, they often make a face. Apparently, my heart rate is a little higher than normal.
It’s best not to mess with the heart. I learned this the hard way after having a friend of mine die when her 35-year-old heart stopped working. You just never know what’s going on in there and up until today, I never gave mine much thought.
First, I’d like to point out something interesting that I noticed as I waited for the doctor to return to finish the test. I was attached to two machines: one featured a looping video of my beating heart; the other featured my heart rate and spit out a paper reading. When I watched my heart beat on the monitor (all four views of it) I found my heart rate dropped substantially on the other machine. When I watched the machine that reported my actual heart rate, it rose substantially. I am not sure what is says about me, but I found this little bit of information really fascinating.
- Click image to see larger view
The most annoying part about the stress test was the fact that I had to complete it without a shirt on. (It’s a man’s world, people.) While I was given one of those paper robes to cover the top half of my body, I wasn’t allowed to wear a bra as there were about 15 electrodes attached to my chest and waist. Each electrode had wires attached and those wires went into a computer whose job it was to make a print out of my heart rate. I’d like to suggest that the ladies out there try running at a 5.0 pace at an 18 percent incline without a shirt on. It’s not pleasant. I felt like I was in a Russ Meyers film.
The second most unpleasant part of the test was the fact that they smear that gel all over your body to get an EKG. You’re given paper towels to wipe it off, but it’s almost impossible to remove it all, especially trying to get around all those sticky electrodes and wires. I still feel a bit gooey.
Other than that, the event wasn’t too bad. The entire test took about 15 minutes. The first three on the treadmill were really slow. The doctor stood at my side and took my blood pressure every three minutes. After three minutes, the machine sped up and rose. And I did well up until the end of minute nine when my boobs started to hurt and my legs started to burn. At minute 10, I was ready to stop. The doctor said I would have to keep at it for one minute, pushing my heart to its maximum. After that, I was thrown onto a table, and told to lie on my left hand side where they took another EKG.
My heart rate, even at 175, is fairly normal. The doctor said that for a 32-year-old, it’s probably best not to push it too much higher and definitely don’t keep the heart working that hard for too long. It’s not good to have it that high for a lengthy amount of time. That makes sense. Admittedly, in the 6 months I have been running, I have gotten better. My heart rate doesn’t go as high and when it does, it happens near minute 30. I am assuming that means I’m making progress. We’ll see in time.
As the doctor pointed at my heart and explained what it was doing on the screen before me and why it was doing what it was doing, I started to think about Katrina. I briefly told him about her and then pointed at my ventricle as it opened and closed and asked him if that’s what malfunctioned on her. He explained how that worked and how it let blood into the heart and how it needed to be closed while the other was open. I guess hers just got their signals crossed.
If I had my way, I’d make every woman I know have a mammogram and every person I know test their heart. It’s amazing how small and hugely necessary that little guy really is.