If you’ve never had a stress test, you’re in for a treat — especially if you’ve never used a treadmill before.
Count me among those lucky enough to try running in place for the first time, as part of a medical test.
Soon after my cardiologist scheduled me for the stress test, I was philosophical about it. After all, I like to walk, and this was just like walking indoors for a few minutes, right?
In fact, I was almost looking forward to the experience.
But that changed as soon as the medical technician explained the sequence of events for the test.
After being hooked up to several wires and electrodes, I would start walking briskly on the treadmill. So far, no problem. After a few minutes, the treadmill belt would be inclined, simulating a hill.
OK, I thought; I can do this.
But then they told me about cranking up the speed for the last portion of the test.
This may not be pretty, I thought.
Sure enough, the first couple of minutes were no problem, once I figured out I needed to stay close to the handrail in front. They increased the incline of the treadmill, and the walking got tougher. After about two minutes of this, I was starting to huff and puff a bit.
Then came the fun part. They turned up the speed to a brisk jog, while keeping the incline.
My legs were already tired, and now this?
After about a minute, my shins and ankles felt as if they were about to explode. I was also breathing pretty heavily.
If this is what long-distance runners go through, I thought, I don’t want any part of it.
The technician kept asking me if I could go a few more seconds. Then a few more seconds. Finally, I asked if I could stop.
As soon as she turned off the treadmill, I was told to lie on the exam table so another technician could give me an echocardiogram. My heart was beating so hard, I’m surprised he could get a good look at it.
A few minutes later, I was done. They told me I had done well (I lasted for a little over 7½ minutes), which my cardiologist later told me rated me a “7” on the Duke University assessment scale. That put me at a low risk for heart attack, he said, and the results were appropriate for someone in my age range.
Within a few minutes of finishing the treadmill test, my ankles stopped burning and my knees stopped aching.
But when I got up off the exam table to get dressed, my legs were so wobbly I couldn’t have passed a field sobriety test — there’s no way I could have walked a straight line.
As I left the hospital, I felt relieved that I had gotten through the test without experiencing any dizziness or any irregular heartbeats — which was why the test was ordered in the first place.
Still, I had to wonder what had happened to the young guy I used to be — a guy who could walk long distances without getting tired, who rarely needed to see the doctor, and who could stay up until the wee hours of the morning and still function fine the next day.
As best as I can figure, a lot of this is just a matter of age catching up with me. After all, I’ll be 60 next spring, and it’s only natural that health problems start popping up more often — not unlike an older-model car that needs more maintenance and frequent repairs.
Still, I’d rather not have this chassis spend too much time in the shop.
I’d also rather not repeat that stress test again anytime soon.
The treadmill experience was bad enough, but the bill — now that was stressful.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at email@example.com or 254-501-7543.