2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Knowledge Base

Welcome to our extensive library of articles on health concerns and ailments, alternative therapies, nutritional supplements, and much more. Please mouse over the letters to get started. We hope you enjoy browsing.

How To Not Die At Your Health Club

All things considered, most of us would prefer not to become acutely ill in a public place. You’d rather not faint at Macy’s, upchuck in a theatre lobby, or suddenly become aware of the Mount St. Helen’s rumbling in your intestines as you sit third row center at Orchestra Hall. If you trip and fall on a busy sidewalk and a dozen helpful people ask if you’re hurt, your response is almost reflexively, “No, I’m all right, really,” as you bravely hobble into the anonymous crowd on a broken ankle.

Becoming seriously ill while exercising at a health club or outside running probably occurs a lot more often than we realize, but because of the wee competitive undercurrent lurking in the sweat-drenched air, you keep your chest pain or your shortness of breath to yourself. As a health club habitue for many years (what, you didn’t notice?), I’ve certainly seen fellow exercisers abruptly leave looking sweaty and ashen. Even if they were having heart attacks, to avoid the embarrassment of appearing vulnerable I’m guessing many would keep the pain to themselves. I’ve asked a couple of fitness trainers about this, and both told of multiple instances where an ambulance had to be called by staff because a client had collapsed, but never an example of a client requesting an ambulance.

If you work out regularly, you’ve probably thought at least once about this. When you join a health club, there’s always that recommendation advising the couch potatoes and over-40s to have an EKG and be cleared by a doctor before starting an exercise program. That’s actually pretty good advice if you’re out of shape, overweight, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, or you’re a smoker.

The problem is that a routine physician clearance doesn’t yield much in the way of useful information for higher-risk health club members. You’ll have your blood pressure checked, heart and lungs listened to, maybe a cholesterol test, maybe an EKG, and then you’re sent off to the sweaty trenches with an approving pat on the head. The reason the EKG isn’t helpful is that it’s taken when you’re resting on a table, which is exactly what you won’t be doing at your health club.

Evaluating blood flow to your heart…ahead of time
By far the better screening device, which insurance companies cover (though they don’t like to because of cost), is a nuclear stress test.The original heart stress test dates from 1950 and was called the Master’s Two-Step Exercise Test. You climbed up and down two steps a certain number of times and then quickly had an EKG, which looked for exercise-induced changes, a sign of possible heart disease. Later, the steps were replaced by a treadmill.

Compellingly, however, a stress test alone misses about 50% of potentially dangerous heart blockages.

Enter the nuclear stress test:

  • First, a tiny amount of harmless radioactive thallium is injected into a small IV line, carried by your bloodstream to your heart.
  • After the injection you lie on a table beneath a scanner (which looks like an x-ray machine) as it records a picture of your heart at rest.
  • Next you get on a treadmill, a technician attaches EKG leads to your chest, and off you go, walking for about ten minutes. As the angle of the treadmill increases, you’ll find yourself huffing, puffing, and sweating as you watch your heartbeat on the screen in front of you. Your goal is to reach 80% of the maximum heart rate for your age. (If you can’t manage this–due to a bad knee, for example–the cardiologist will inject a medicine that raises your heart rate to that vital 80% of max.)
  • Once you’re off the treadmill, panting and all sweaty, heart a-pounding, you return to the scanner, which makes a post-exercise picture of your heart.

The cardiologist can now see your heart pumping and ensure that its walls and chambers are normal. Your doc is also looking for defects, areas in your heart reflecting inadequate blood flow. These are the trouble spots. Defects can indicate areas of blockage inside the coronary arteries. A complete blockage translates to a heart attack.

If there are significant defects on your scan, the cardiologist may recommend a coronary angiogram, an x ray procedure in which dye is injected into your coronary arteries to visualize the actual blockages. Angiograms are done in a hospital cardiac lab. If there are one or two significant blockages in an accessible part of the artery, the cardiologist may be able to insert a small expandable tube called a stent (here’s a nice rendering), which squeezes the blockage against the artery wall and opens the artery channel. If this isn’t possible, the recommendation may be to call in a cardiac surgeon to perform a coronary bypass graft procedure.

If all of this sounds grim, don’t worry. It certainly beats falling over dead at your health club.

In basically healthy people, nuclear scans are usually negative and you go home feeling good about yourself. Also, by the way, being able to do the full ten minutes of the stress test without symptoms is now listed as an “independent longevity factor.” Just like it sounds, this means you’ve got a better chance of living longer than someone who hops off early gasping, “Can’t…do…this.”

If you’re a WholeHealth Chicago patient at risk for heart disease, call the Lincoln Park Heart Center, 2266 N Lincoln Ave (three blocks south of WHC), and let them know you’re our patient. You’ll work either with Sukhjit S Gill, MD, or his son, Sanjay S Gill, MD. Both are board-certified cardiologists with special training in nuclear medicine. PPO insurance (Medicare as well) virtually always covers this procedure if you’re over 40, but remember in these days of high deductibles that you’ll probably reach your deductible with this test alone. HMO members need to get a referral from their primary provider.

If you’re not a WholeHealth Chicago patient, ask your primary physician to refer you to a local cardiologist or hospital specifically for a nuclear stress test.

As always, the best strategy is prevention. You can generally avoid angiograms, stents, bypass grafts, and statins by keeping your weight under control, exercising, eating well, and meditating.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD




Leave a Comment

  1. David says:

    By and large, heart disease is not a function of age but diet and exercise (or lack thereof). A high fiber vegan diet accompanied by freshly squeezed daily greens along with a moderate exercise regimen is better than any health insurance or western medicine has to offer. It’s never too late to ween yourself off the addictive and self destructive animal fats and proteins. When you do, your energy level will soar and you life expectancy, on average, increases a decade.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base


Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Upcoming Workshops

The Next Lyme Academy Begins
Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-7 pm
Here’s a special invitation for patients of Dr. Kelley who are currently being treated for Lyme disease. Dr. Kelley’s new, four-week Lyme Academy starts on October 4, continuing over the following three Tuesdays.


Awakened Body, Quiet Mind
An innovative workshop series for relieving mind/body stress and tapping into your true power and natural health.
4 Group Sessions with Meghan Roekle, PsyD
Four meetings using a unique combination of embodiment meditation and mental inquiry for deep healing.
Thursdays from 6:00-8:00pm; beginning October 20th

Recent Health Tips

  • Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    As you might expect, fatigue is a fairly common reason people visit doctors. Feeling tired is vague symptom and can be linked to dozens of possible diagnoses, plus there’s a need to differentiate between physical fatigue and mental fatigue (brain fog) or consider both. When …Read More »
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    I’d been reading Ally Hilfiger’s new autobiography Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me, preferring the Lyme parts to those devoted to fashion and her MTV “Rich Girl” series. Her symptoms were typical of chronic Lyme and …Read More »

October Sale: 20% Off Urban Moonshine Products


All Urban Moonshine products are 20% off for the entire month of October!

Urban Moonshine creates beautiful herbal formulas that focus on prevention, improving quality of life, and empowering people to create home herbal apothecaries.  More>>