Essential medical examinations prior to engaging on a long-term physical exercises (Part 2)

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Electrocardiogram is an instrument which has some sort of electrical wirings attached to the chest and extremities of a person to be examined. When the machine is run, a white longpaper comes out wherein the tracing of the heart activities is written. This tracing will then be interpreted by a medical expert.

The most important information that can be derived from ECG is the patency of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with the much needed blood. If one or more coronary arteries is/ are blocked, heart attack could take place, and the patient may die. The ECG will not only tell the attending physician that the patient has blockages of the coronary arteries; it will also indicate the location of the blockages.

Knowing beforehand that the patient has coronary blockages is very important because by taking in proper medications, heart attack could be prevented, and the patient may be allowed to engage in a restricted physical exercises. If heart attack was not prevented, and it happened, the ECG could definitely detect it, and proper measures could be done to save the life of the patient.

The heart has four chambers: (1) the left ventricle, (2) the right ventricle, (3) the left atrium, and (4) the right atrium. Through the ECG, the physician will be informed if there is enlargement of any one of the chambers. For instance, if the left ventricle is enlarged, then it can be surmised that the patient may have a long standing hypertension which has been left untreated. If the right ventricle is the one enlarged, then some degree of blood flow obstruction in the lungs can be considered. If the right or left atrium is enlarged, then some defects in the heart valves could be detected. With any one of these findings, would-be participant in gym sessions could be properly advised.

Another important information which the ECG could reveal will be the presence of the so-called atrio-ventricular blocks wherein the electrical current coming from the sinus node, a structure in the upper portion of the heart which produces the spark for electrical current,   is not properly transmitted to the ventricles. With this, the normal rhythm of the heart is disturbed. If this happens, the person concerned will not be able to perform highly strenuous work or physical exercises.

Other information that can be gathered from the ECG tracing are the following: (1) the rate and rhythm of the heart, (2) the position of the heart in relation to the chest cage, and (3) alterations in the blood levels of electrolytes, such as calcium or potassium.

Threadmill Stress Testing

Stress testing is a procedure wherein the patient performs a threadmill exercise, and the load is gradually increased. As he exercises, the pulse rate, symptoms of any heart disease, blood pressure, and tracing of electrocardiogram (ECG) are monitored. Normally, as the person exercises, the pulse rate and blood pressures increase, but there should never be chest pain and/or abnormalities in the ECG tracing. If the blood pressure decreases, or the patient experiences chest pain, or there are ECG abnormalities indicating heart problem, the exercise test will be discontinued.

The thread mill stress testing is usually required for would-be gym enthusiasts who at one time or another experienced chest pain, especially if it was provoked by exerting effort, such as going up the stairs, lifting a heavy object, or running! It was usually relieved by rest! In this case, it is possible that the person concerned is suffering from ischemic heart disease (IHD), wherein some parts of his/her heart is/are not well supplied with the much needed blood, and he/she is prone to suffer from heart attack!

Individuals suspected of suffering from IHD need to undergo this test so as to firmly establish if he/she is really suffering from the disease. If, indeed, the individual has IHD, he/she needs to have daily medication(s) as he/she engages in a long-term physical exercise program. There are cases, however, when a medical doctor will immediately disallow a person to proceed with any physical exercise program if the findings in the threadmill stress test revealed that he/she has heart problem that could endanger his/her life.

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