As part of my ongoing quest in being pro-active about my health, I just completed my Echo Stress Test.
For those who may be unfamiliar with this procedure, it is a echocardiogram of your heart, followed by a treadmill stress test, immediately followed by another echo.
The first echo establishes a baseline at rest, the second shows the effects of stress on the heart. It is the same ultrasound technology that permits you to have a picture of your grandchild on the fridge months before he is born.
The treadmill is standard fare, it seemed the same to me as it was twenty years ago. The Technician hooks you up to an EKG, takes your Blood Pressure, and then the test begins. The belt turns at a walking pace, and at three minutes, the tech takes another BP reading and the incline and speed rise. Rinse and Repeat until you hit 85% of your max heart rate.
The Tech hooked me up and I was left alone in the room for about five minutes. I am a geek by trade, so I went to the monitor to observe what was presented on the Dashboard Display. It showed my heart rate was 80. I wanted to lower it, so I performed some meditative breathing and within less than a minute I had it down to 69. I was ready to get the show on the road.
I measured my BP at home when I arose at 4:30 a.m.. It was OK (for me), at pre-hypertension levels. When the tech measured me it was 150/100. During the test it rose to 165/100 and when I stopped it was 175/100 with my pulse at 140. The tech turned to me with a wink and said, “Go home and take your Beta-Blocker.” That was not what I wanted to hear.
I get teased by the ladies at the gym for my disdain of metcons. I hate cardio-intense WODs. I’ll do strength work and heavy WODs. They insist that I would love Bootcamps. I seriously doubt it. Though this stress test was nothing compared to a CrossFit metcon, my BP was through the roof.
I hate running, I love Rowing. The treadmill was obviously closer to running but with minimal impact. But I will admit, my calves were getting heavy. When I’m running, if it’s too much of a grind, I simply change the pace and slow down briefly. With the treadmill, the speed is constant and you are stuck with keeping pace or you fall on your face.
As I was walking through the fourth set I noticed my heart rate was 140, so I knew I was at, or near, my 85% max heart rate threshold, and sure enough, at the end of this set, she shut me down and I hurried to the table for the Ultrasound Tech to continue her work. I was appalled how heavily I was breathing.
The first tech was still watching my EKG and the Dashboard. My heart rate recovery was a bit slower than I was expecting it to be. I am a CrossFitter! How can two years effort of diet and fitness be scuttled by a stupid 12 minute walk on a treadmill?
As I have begun writing this blogpost, I have not yet seen the results of the Echocardiogram, so I do not know the doctor’s assessment of my heart. But to me, my BP is alarming. It stayed elevated for two days. This morning it was normal again, after a good night’s rest. So I decided to perform an experiment.
I went to the gym and did a 20 minute AMRAP metcon, 15 Kettlebell Swings, 10 Burpee Box Jumps, 200m Row (I subbed because I wasn’t doing 200m sandbag runs today). I finished 5 rounds, less the final row. I was not disappointed with my performance. I wore my heart monitor and my pulse never exceeded 122 bpm.
As soon as the WOD was finished I hooked up my Blood Pressure Cuff and measured: 167/102 with heart rate of 103. Heart rate recovery was fair, but BP is bad. Four hours later, it has dropped slightly.
This metcon produced a similar result to the controlled environment stress test at the cardiologists office, but I performed a lot more work for a longer period of time. This is mimicking the trashed feeling I had a few weeks back when I redlined in a local Masters Comp.
For those of you who may be wondering, CrossFit is not the cause of my problems. I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years. In fact CF has me in the best health I have been in for over thirty years. But it is becoming obvious that certain elements of the CrossFit regime do not serve me well in my current state of being.
As I am writing this, I am still await my follow-up meeting with Dr. Cardio to review my Echo before determining the next course of action. I will tell you I was disappointed with the Stress Test. Fool that I am, I went into it thinking it was just another WOD. Wrong!
As I discussed these events with my Gal Pal, WOD Partner, Julia, she offered her observation. I’ve been distracted, absent-minded, tired and stressed. She’s a Professional Shrink and a cup of coffee and a non-Paleo breakfast yielded a free assessment: stress is doing this to me. Physical stress and work stress are affecting my health. I cannot relax. I cannot turn off my mind. Deep down inside, I knew that. But Julia reminded me and drove the point home.
I can only get so much free counseling for a cup of coffee, so tell me, what do you do to calm your mind, heart and body (preferably non-chemically)? Herbs, Acupuncture, Floatation? I really want to know, and for some strange reason, I am sure I am not the only one reading this article who is curious about non-pharmaceutical options for reducing stress and hypertension.