This may seem like a stretch, but we think there is a correlation between a stress test and the way we should be living our everyday lives. Before we dive into the reasoning behind our thinking, let’s talk about the stress test. While the name of the evaluation includes the word stress, we don’t think you should feel that way about it. A stress test is an assessment which enables your cardiologist to see in real time how your cardiovascular system operates when it’s under stress.
During an exercise stress test, the technician who is administering the exam will place electrodes on your heart and then ask you to exercise on a treadmill while they monitor your heart’s electrical system, your blood pressure, and your breathing. In some situations where exercise is not possible, your cardiologist would recommend a nuclear stress test which is similar to the exercise stress test but uses a radioactive dye instead of exercise to raise your heart rate.
Stress tests are common and safe. If you have been asked to complete one you have nothing to fear, and plenty to gain. While you do your own research into the assessment, here are some things we think you can learn from the process.
It’s Good To Get Your Heart Rate Up
Your heart is a muscle and, just like any other muscle in your body, it needs to be exercised. During your stress test, your heart rate will likely rise much higher than if you were going for a brisk walk, riding your bike, or playing a sport. But, the fact remains that raising your heart rate is a very healthy thing. If you are not accustomed to getting regular exercise you may find that you tire easily when you first get started. That’s ok, just like a stress test, there is no winning or losing in heart-healthy exercise. The importance is not in doing it the best, but in doing better than you have before. Before you enter into a new exercise routine, make sure you talk with your cardiologist about what types of exercises and how much is ideal for you. Unlike a stress test which has the purpose of stressing your heart muscle, regular exercise shouldn’t be quite as stressful!
It Doesn’t Have To Be Extreme
During a stress test, you will exercise for approximately 15 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, that’s no time at all. Often we feel overwhelmed at the idea of exercise because it seems like it ought to take a long time or a lot of energy, but that’s not true. Don’t be distracted by the gyms in your community who are focused on high energy fitness classes or lifting extremely heavy weights. There is nothing innately wrong with those types of exercise and you may eventually work your way up to something like that. But when you’re getting started, the most important thing is that you exercise at all. Let’s take the stress test as an example. Can you commit to walking around your neighborhood for 15 minutes a day? Start there, and before you know it you’ll be working your way up in time and intensity.
Avoid Smoking And Drinking
Before your stress test, your cardiologist will ask you to avoid eating, smoking, and drinking alcohol. Of course, we don’t recommend that you avoid eating. But if stress test wisdom has anything to teach us about a heart-healthy diet, it may be to avoid the other two items on the list.
Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease not to mention its contributions to other diseases in the body. Smoking can also lead to asthma, COPD, diabetes, and even cancer. If you’re currently struggling with a smoking habit, we urge you to seek help to end it. When it comes to alcohol, another substance to avoid before a stress test, the excessive consumption of it can weaken your heart muscle leading to heart failure. The wisdom of the stress test gets it right again!
If you’ve been asked by your cardiologist to undergo a stress test, it may be time to consider how those same activities could translate to your everyday life. Remember, for most people a healthy lifestyle won’t come on all at once. You’ll start making small, incremental lifestyle changes and before you know it you’re living differently. Undergoing a stress test may be just the boost that you need to take the next steps in your heart health journey. If you have more questions about a stress test or would like to speak to a cardiologist on our team about how to live a heart-healthy life, please contact us today.