Regular exercise such as treadmill running is important for cardiovascular health. When heart pain interferes with your ability to exercise, though, you may start avoiding workouts. The resulting lack of activity could worsen your health over time. Heart pain during exercise isn't the equivalent of a heart attack, but it is cause for concern. If you experience heart pain while on a treadmill, stop to rest and consult a health care provider.
Angina pectoris is chest or heart pain that occurs when a part of the heart doesn't receive enough blood and therefore oxygen to function properly. You may feel a squeezing pain in your chest as well as pain along your arms, neck or back. This pain goes away after a few minutes of rest. Because the heart's oxygen requirements increase during vigorous physical activity, like treadmill running, angina is more likely to occur when you exercise. Medical professionals refer to angina that occurs during exercise as stable angina and say it is fairly predictable.
The Treadmill Stress Test
Your health care provider may use a treadmill stress test to learn more about the causes of your heart pain. During this test, a health care technician will fasten electrodes to your chest to monitor your heart activity through an electrocardiogram. The technician will ask you to walk briskly on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for about five to 15 minutes. You'll need to let the technician know if you experience any symptoms including heart pain, muscle pain or shortness of breath. Alternatively, your health care provider may order cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging, coronary catheterization or other tests to assess your heart pain.
Managing Heart Pain
Unlike unstable angina, which occurs at unpredictable times, stable angina isn't a sign of an impending heart attack. It does, however, indicate a cardiovascular problem that requires medical attention. Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of angina, note University of Maryland Medical Center experts. You can start improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your angina risk by making lifestyle changes. These include eating less saturated fat or getting regular moderate exercise. Your health care provider may also prescribe medication such as nitroglycerin.
Exercising Without Pain
At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week is appropriate for people who have experienced exercise-induced angina, University of Maryland Medical Center experts advise. You may need to start with 20-minute workouts two or three days weekly and work up to more frequent exercise. To prevent an angina attack, avoid intense exercise and activities that involve fast movements. Walking briskly on a treadmill is still an option, but avoid running. Moderate-intensity cycling and swimming are also safe options.