Heart Health

07 January 2009

Heart stress test

How stressed is your heart? Now there's a machine that can show you.

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It isn’t every day you get an opportunity to view a print-out showing your levels of cardiovascular risk and a measure of your acute stress level.

While visiting Dr Kevin Lentin, an integrated medicine consultant, I was offered a test on the cardioscan machine, and I was intrigued.

The cardioscan system explained
Lentin explained that the cardioscan machine is used primarily as a tool in the field of preventative health management. This machine, which hails from Germany, measures and analyses a three-channel standing ECG. Once the measurement has been taken, the data is processed and a detailed colour-coded graphic printout delivers the information.

Firstly, Lentin entered relevant information such as my age, my height, weight and also details of past conditions and current exercise levels. Once the data was captured, Lentin had me remove my shoes and attached light sensor clamps to my wrists and ankles. I then lay very still on a special bed while the cardioscan recorded my heart rhythm.

What it tells us
Once the measuring process was over, I waited for a short time while the software to calibrated the information and it was interesting to see what is termed an ‘Electro-cardio-portrait’. The collected data portrayed several things:

  • Deviations in the ECG curve
    Any deviation from a standard ECG can mean an indication for heart disease. While the cardio-scan system is not diagnostic, scoring under three may mean a visit to your doctor is necessary.
  • Disturbances in heart rhythm
    People may not even notice that they have an arrhythmic heartbeat, but it is potentially life-threatening. If an arrhythmic heartbeat is detected it is advised that one sees a medical practitioner for further investigation.
  • Cardiac stress level
    Using the Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measurement, the cardio-scan system shows the Cardio Stress Index (CSI) in percent form. If one is showing a CSI score of over 25% on a fairly regular basis, it is time to take a look at some lifestyle changes.
  • Cardiovascular fitness
    Taking into account ECG data, CSI, weight, height , age and gender, the cardio-scan system gives a final indicator of the test subjects momentary physical fitness. It’s only a snapshot and can change with any number of factors, but the cardio-scan test is useful as a guideline to measure training progress and to keep track of cardiac stress levels.

It was a little eerie to see my heart rhythm and other ECG data portrayed as a graphic resembling a floating iceberg, but it was a relief to discover that I had tested well in all four categories with low stress, even rhythm and generally good fitness. Which is not to say that I exercise enough, but it’s encouraging to know that I can amp it up without having to worry.

Lentin says that the cardio-scan system is used in gyms, spas, pharmacies and fitness clubs. He uses the system as part of his integrated health programme.

(Joanne Hart, Health24, November 2008)

 

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