The Importance Of A Check Up Before An Exercise Program
Before you begin a new exercise program to help decrease your high blood pressure (or any other disease), have your doctor measure your blood cholesterol and, if possible, blood triglycerides. In addition, you really should get a stress test if you:
* Are over 40.
* Have a high blood cholesterol level.
* Have at least one other major coronary risk factor, such as being seriously overweight, smoke cigarettes, have diabetes mellitus, or have a family history of coronary disease by age fifty.
* Have known cardiovascular or lung or metabolic disease
By “stress test,” we are referring to a multistage stress test that utilizes a treadmill or a stationary exercise bicycle. In the multistage test, your electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood pressure can be taken continuously while you exercise and as the level of exercise is increased.
An EKG is a tracing of electrical activity of the heart. You may have already had one taken at rest. If a resting EKG shows abnormal electrical activity, you need careful consultation with your doctor about whether and how you should begin an exercise program. If coronary artery disease has caused your heart any problems, a resting EKG may show signs of this.
However, a resting EKG often fails to show signs of coronary disease and so provides no assurance that you are not about to have a heart attack. On the other hand, abnormalities in the EKG are much more likely to show up during exercise, so a properly conducted treadmill EKG (the stress test) offers much better evidence.
The treadmill stress test also gives some idea of how hard you can exercise safely. Let’s say you get your heart rate up to 150 and the electrical tracing (EKG) is still normal. Although it is not a guarantee, that provides an indication that as long as your heart rate is not higher than 150 when you exercise, you are unlikely to have a heart attack.
But unfortunately, even the exercise EKG isn’t infallible. Your coronary arteries could be almost two-thirds closed with cholesterol deposits and you might still pass the stress test – especially if it is not conducted according to the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine. However, among the simple and safe methods, it’s the best we have for evaluating your cardiac health.