Monday, July 12, 2010

The Stress Test

About 2 years ago, prior to running my first half marathon (21km) race in the Borneo International Marathon, I went for a full medical check-up. I went through a whole range of tests, including lipid profile, blood sugar level, prostate, liver and stress test. I decided for the comprehensive test because before that I had never covered anywhere close to the 21km distance. Well, I have since gone on to run a few more half marathons and 3 full marathons, not to mention numerous other shorter distances.

I'm feeling great at my age. I can't run like the professional Kenyan marathoners, of course, but I'm quite happy to know that I can run much faster and longer when compared to many, many other average men my age. However, I have a family history of heart disease and diabetes. My grandmother had diabetes, as is my dad. Then a few years ago, my sister Bridget, and my brother Dennis, also found that they had type 2 diabetes. Almost everyone in my family has high cholesterol level, including me. So I have been taking a cholesterol-lowering drug since some years ago. I tried to solve the problem by means of controlling my diet, but when one is genetically cursed, no amount of diet can help to lower the cholesterol level!

To prolong the onset of these diseases, I've somehow programmed myself into an active lifestyle. From a young age, I have always been active in sports. I've played badminton, swimming, weights, and now running.

Nevertheless, because I'm in the higher risk group, a doctor friend suggested that it's a good idea to go for a medical check on an annual basis—just to make sure. It is not exactly compulsory, but advisable.

So last Saturday afternoon, I went to Klinik Dr Raj in Heritage Plaza, Jalan Lintas for a stress test. It wasn't a very difficult test. First, I had several of those tiny wires attached to my body. Those were connected to a small box which was in turn connected to a machine with lots of numbers and graphs on the monitor. I was instructed to get onto a treadmill. When I was ready, the treadmill started to move. Initially, it was very slow—merely a walking pace. I could see my heart rate gradually increase on the monitor.

After a short while, the speed increased a bit and I had to walk a bit faster, but it was still very easy for me. That continued for up to almost 15 minutes. Each time the treadmill increased its speed, the gradient was also increased slightly. By the time I reached the maximum level—I think Dr Raj said it was stage 5—I had to run. And because of the angle, I felt like I was running uphill. It was quite some workout. I actually started sweating!

Soon, my heart rate reached 176 bpm, and Dr Raj stopped the machine. I got off the treadmill and a nurse helped me to detached all those wires. I then went to the washroom to wipe myself a bit.

A short while later, I was called to see Dr Raj in his consultation room again. On his desk, there was a long sheet of graph with some readings on it. That was eventually given to me for my own record, but I have no idea what all those figures mean! Together with that graph thing was a summary of the doctor's finding:

Exercise time - 14 minutes 32 seconds
Stage - 5
Workload: 17.1 METS
Maximum heart rate attained: 176 bpm (100% of max predicted of 176 bpm)
Reason for termination: Achieved target heart rate
Symptoms: Nil
ST segment change: Nil
Arrhythmias: Nil
Blood pressure response: Appropriate

Impression: Normal Stress Test

I don't know if it's for the sake of justifying the charges for the test, but I can't really understand all those readings on the chart anyway; and all those medical jargon like METS, ST segment, Arrhtytmias are no different from listening to Neytiri, the Pandorian in Avatar, speaks.

In the end, I'm glad to know that I have passed yet another stress test, although my wallet ended up a bit stressed up because of the charges. So I guess this means I'm good for the remaining 3 races I've signed up for this year. So Dr Peter, if you are reading this, bring it on!

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