Stress Test

I went in for lab tests and an exercise stress test on Friday, March 3rd. It took about 3 hours for me to get there from where I’m staying on Subic Bay near Olongapo City. The labs had to be done in the morning since they’re doing a blood lipid panel to see where my cholesterol is. I have to have blood drawn between 9 and 12 hours from my last meal. Trying to make it at 9 hours would have given me no sleep! I finished eating around 11 PM the night before so I needed to have blood drawn before 11 AM.

I caught a bus at 7:30 AM that was going all the way to Dau, near Angeles City. 158 pesos. I got to Dau at 9:45 AM. A short walk and I was able to catch a jeepney to Clark Main Gate where there is a jeepney terminal. Less than 10 minutes. From there I caught a second jeepney to Medical City-Clark. After checking in downstairs with TriCare, I arrived at the lab right at 10:30 AM with only 30 minutes to spare!

After getting my blood drawn and providing a urine sample, I caught the shuttle to SM City Mall-Clark and had some lunch. I walked around the mall for a while. I normally would have had coffee, but I wasn’t allowed to have any caffeinated beverages before the stress test. I had a mango shake instead!

When I checked in for my stress test around 2:30 PM they took my height and weight. A little surprisingly I’d gained 10 lbs in the last month! I’d been told to take it easy by my doctor, but perhaps a “little” more exercise might have been good! Probably didn’t help that the local VFW, where I spend a lot of time due to their free WiFi, started serving “apple pie ala mode”! I started having this almost every day… probably not very helpful in keeping weight off!

After taking my height and weight I was escorted to the room with a treadmill and an EKG machine, where the test would be conducted. The tech left the room while I changed into a pair of gym shorts. After I changed she came back in and placed a chair on the treadmill for me to sit on. She then started hooking me up to leads to the EKG machine. They got a “resting” blood pressure and pulse. 110/70 for my blood pressure with a resting pulse around 70. My blood pressure was very good as it has normally been. My resting pulse was a bit higher which I attribute to loss of conditioning over the last few months. A more normal resting pulse rate for me would be a little lower at around 65 bpm.

Sitting and waiting while they take my readings at rest before starting my exercise stress test.

A doctor came in and introduced herself and explained how the test would go. Basically the goal was for me to reach 85% of my maximum heart rate which is calculated as 220-58 (my age) while they monitored my heart. My blood pressure would also be monitored throughout. The doctor explained if it became dangerously high defined as 220/110, the test would be stopped. The treadmill would go through a programmed series of steps where speed and elevation would be gradually increased in order to stress my heart. If I were unable to keep up or began to suffer symptoms such as severe chest pain, extreme shortness of breath, leg pain, weakness, or dizziness, then she would also stop the test. Each stage was 3 minutes and I did a total of 7 stages before going into a cool down.

I showed her a printout of an article from Divers Alert Network website showing that I needed to achieve 13 MET’s at Level 4 of a Bruce Protocol in order to be cleared to dive again. I let her know that my goal was to exceed that level.

As it turned out, I had no problems exceeding it. The test is designed to gradually increase the stress. It took over 18 minutes and Level 6 for me to hit 85% of my maximum heart rate. I still wasn’t working that hard at that point and was at only 10.3 MET’s! As I approached a 100% she slowed things down a bit to keep my heart rate up but so I wouldn’t exceed the maximum. My blood pressure topped out at 140/90 so never even close. I ended up at 15.2 MET’s at level 7 so well above the minimum I needed to meet! (at least as I understand it)

They also measured how long it took my blood pressure and pulse to return to normal. I had 6 minutes of cool down on the treadmill. My pulse had dropped to a 100 by then. In fairly short order I was fully recovered. Truthfully I was surprised at how well the test went and how quickly I’ve seemed to recover, but I’m not going to complain!

I have an appointment with my cardiologist on Wednesday and we’ll go over my test results. I’m only a layman, so possibly there was something in my EKG which will be a contraindication for me to dive, but I’m pretty confident of being cleared to dive!

I’ll keep y’all posted!