Doctor’s orders: more stress

Yesterday’s workout (Stress test): 4 hours

Having a top ranked physician as your doctor has its pluses and minuses. On one hand you know that you are getting the best care that medical insurance can buy, but it also means that you are monitored closely and forced to take tests to confirm that everything remains normal. I’m not fanatical about my health but me and my family meet annually or (semi-annually) with our doctors and dentists just to confirm all is well. Yesterday, as a follow up to August’s physical, I went through a stress test that involved a number of activities. The process is time consuming and not particularly difficult but in the end it is exhausting.

Soon after my arrival I was injected with Thallium 201, a trace agent for monitoring blood flow through the imaging process. No big deal except for the idea of having a radioisotope coursing through your veins and arteries. The half-life is 73 hours so I won’t be boarding any airplanes this week. I was assured a number of times that it’s extremely safe. I guess I have to take their word on that. The first activity was a full body scan on a flat imaging bed that required keeping absolutely still for about 15 minutes. Running has taught me much about patience while enduring discomfort so that was a piece of cake, despite the need to hold my arms far forward and holding my head at an unnatural angle. After that I was hooked up to a bunch of electrodes and put on a treadmill that increased in speed and tilt angle over a 20 minute period. Being a runner helped me there, though I’ll admit that the apex of speed and elevation became challenging. Still, I never reached the point where I was sweating profusely.  Halfway through the process I was re-injected with Thallium while I was in motion. That was a little weird.

The next part of the test was another round of imaging that seemed longer and even less comfortable. I was then brought into another room for a sonogram of both carotid arteries. During the treadmill and sonogram testing I was asked why I was being tested because my results looked fine. That was good to hear. The final step was to be fitted with a heart monitor with four electrodes that would record cardio-activity for 24 hours. I’ll get to take that off at noon and I’m looking forward to that. I can’t shower until it’s off so I didn’t run this morning. I’m deciding whether to run with it just prior to removal or to wait until I take it off. I’d be interested to know how my heart rate varies when monitored by a more sophisticated instrument that the Garmin’s HRM but I doubt the doctor will show me the raw data. However, they might share the highlights. The best part of having completed the stress test is that, unlike yesterday morning, I’m now allowed to drink coffee. I missed that a lot yesterday. I far prefer it to Thallium 201.

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