I have an old friend who’s pushing 80 and doesn’t seem upset by aging. He exercises two or three times a week with a 20-minute walk on well-maintained paths. No obvious health problems, comfy as a lark.
Recently he opted for the annual insurance-paid health checkup. He does it every year as long as insurance will pay for it.
This year he had a problem and he confided with me about it. It seems that for the first time the doctor wanted a stress test via the treadmill, to last at least 10 minutes. Something new for him. When questioned, he said he could walk for five minutes on the flat ground and go up two flights of stairs without having to stop, as the doctor had asked.
He showed up in shorts and T-shirt, and sneakers. The nurse hooked him up to a computer-type device using wires with sticky ends. The timer was started and the treadmill activated at 3 mph with a three-degree slant.
At three minutes my friend called for a halt; it was too much for him.
The doctor explained maybe he was in weak health and suggested the stress test be completed using several drugs without the actual exercise. Sounded good to my friend, so he opted for drugs rather than the treadmill. This is called a pharmacologic stress imaging study.
However, the pharmacological is used only when an exercise test can’t be performed due to exercise limiting problems such as musculoskeletal problems, nerve snags or poor lung functions.
But an exercise test is preferable to the drug test. Compared with a drug test imaging study an exercise test:
Provides different information with which to assess the shape of one’s heart and cardiovascular system. It provides doctors with information on heart exercise rhythm or any abnormalities as measured by an electrocardiogram (EEG).
It also allows the exercise test doctors to see if exercise affects other aspects of the cardiovascular system such as blood pressure and blood flow.
The stress test also measures one’s ability to exercise at varying levels. It’s predictive of cardiac outcomes and exercise durations strongly associated with risk of coronary events and even death.
Exercise tests often don’t require imaging such as cardiac nuclear scan or electrocardiograms since the EEG are often sufficiently telling. Still, imaging studies are frequent in the exercise tests.
The stress test also uses imaging studies and is less costly and takes less time. In addition, drugs used as stress test can have side effects of their own and are best avoided when possible.
If the treadmill itself is a test barrier, perhaps because of balance problems, or knee arthritis, then other forms of exercise can be substituted. Exercise bikes, pedaling a spinner, are often acceptable substitutes for the treadmill.
As one who uses the treadmill just daily in conjunction with the stationary bike, I can understand why some people have trouble with the mill. When I tie bike and treadmill together for a 15-minute session, I really flake out.
But the treadmill is important to me, as it forces me to do more than I really want to. The seconds fly by and I tire but I keep on pacing. I do less treadmill time than stationary bike time in my workouts.
To wind it up, my friend wound up with the drug stress test, which didn’t find any problems. Except that maybe a longer period of exercise would be beneficial.
I, of course, suffer from type 2 diabetes and have for years since a doctor first diagnosed it. I went from a drug to injection of insulin nightly years ago.
Incidentally, they’re testing an artificial MiniMed 670G system dubbed an artificial pancreas for some folk with the type 1 diabetes. The device constantly measures glucose levels and automatically dispenses the proper amount of insulin to avoid imbalances in blood sugar, too high or low.
Some input from the user is needed, such as the amount of carbohydrates consumed, adjustments for blood sugar shift during exercise.
Mayo Clinic doctors say the new pump is an important step forward to developing fully automatic artificial pancreas. More study is needed to decide if it would be good for those with type 2 diabetes.
Snow on the slopes
We’ve received our first snow on the ski runs so I’ve adapted my exercise program to prepare me for the runs. One TV channel sent a reporter and film crew to Mount Rose and the result was some sloppy skiing and riding on winds waved of snow. Far from enough to turn on the ski lifts, but it’s a promise of good times to come.
I’ve dug out my skis, four-year-old shaped Rossignols, and will wax them this week. If you’re new to skiing, remember that to enjoy the sport (or riding as well) waxing is important — it makes the skis easier to turn. You’ve got to remove the old patches of wax left from last season before putting on new. You pull out the old wax from the tiny holes in the P-tex base, which slow you down and make turns tougher.
I use a plastic scraper to do the removal job and melt the new wax bar with an old iron from the thrift shop and try to do all the tune-ups over a slick floor.
A bindings check is beyond the abilities of most skiers. Take the skis to a pro shop or hope the first resort you visit tests the torque in them for you.
I’ll see you on the slopes, not on the bumps or Black Diamonds anymore. That’s more for younger skiers and riders than this aging snow sports fan.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.