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  1. #1
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    Don't assume your heart is healthy

    I am a frequent poster in the forums, and an avid cyclist, but, being 34, have never had a reason to post in this subforum. Until now.

    My father, who is 64 and has been a hardcore cyclist since the late 70's, has been diagnosed with advanced coronary disease that will probably (90%) require multiple bypass surgery.

    He started having slight pain and numbness in his left arm about 6 months ago while cycling. This was compounded by severe shortness of breath while climbing hills (he lives in Western Massachusetts, where there are many short, steep hills).

    He was cycling about 10,000 miles a year through the 80's and 90's - a serious tourer into his 50's. During this decade he has slowed down a good deal, but still does 3,000 miles a year or so, and during the winter goes to the gym for a couple hours at a stretch, 4 times a week. He is a non-smoker, moderate drinker, eats decently, and has been 5'10" and 160 lbs. since I was born. His blood pressure is 110/70, his resting heart rate 62 bpm. But the arteries around his heart are almost completely clogged.

    His doctors never considered him at risk despite a long family history of heart disease (his father died young of a massive heart attack, his brother has had heart problems for 20 years, his mother died of a massive stroke, etc.). His family, they thought, was plagued with heart problems due to poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, alcoholism, stress - all the things that are NOT characteristic of my dad's behavior for the last 30 years. His doctors were wrong.

    In a recent email to me, he warned that being physically fit and active does not turn you into superman. He easily could have keeled over and died a la Jim Fixx, thinking that his level of fitness would prevent any and all major health issues at least until he was really, truly old.

    I am sorry for the bummer post: but wanted to send out a caveat for all of you 50+ cyclists. I have learned in the past week that starting at 50 I will get a contrast CT scan done once a year, just to make sure everything's all right in there, no matter my fitness level.

  2. #2
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by splytz1
    His doctors never considered him at risk despite a long family history of heart disease (his father died young of a massive heart attack, his brother has had heart problems for 20 years, his mother died of a massive stroke, etc.).
    The key is to pick your ancestors very, very carefully. That is what really got Jim Fixx into trouble -- he went into denial about his families' horrible heart history.

    OTOH, your father has probably developed some massive collateral circulation about his coronaries which is keeping him alive. So the training might have postponed the day of reckoning for a long time.

    Best wishes for a very speedy recovery.

  3. #3
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post. There's nothing like real examples to help us all to learn from.

    Do you know what your Dad's cholestrol level is by chance? Just as importantly, do you know what yours is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe
    Thanks for the post. There's nothing like real examples to help us all to learn from.

    Do you know what your Dad's cholestrol level is by chance? Just as importantly, do you know what yours is?

    I had been riding for 8 Years when I had a triple bypass and I was probably at my fittest for 20 years. Cholesterol was the problem. A couple of years later and my riding partner had a heart attack on a ride and died. His arteries were furred up completely and when I had my bypass he had a little scare and was checked out with nothing showing a problem. He had heart problems running in the family and as a matter of course- his two daughers aged 19 and 23 were checked for cholesterol and an angiogram done. Both of them are now on cholesterol busters as the heredity side is already showing in them.

    So splytz- Get the cholesterol check on yourself done. It is easier to take action now.


    As an aside to your father- A bypass will give him a reconditioned heart- not as good as the original but better than it has been in the past few years. He will go through a lot body pain that will annoy him but 11 weeks after my bypass I did a 40 miler- that if I realised how hard it was going to be-I would have trained harder for. Within 2 years I was back doing the harder rides that I gave up doing a few years before- just to prove that I could still do them. Unfortunately I am still doing them and they are still hard.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  5. #5
    Coyote!
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    Yeah, that ticker is one of the few components that doesn't always telegraph error codes prior to failure. Long ago some smart doc told me and some other students that cardiac fitness is more about survival than prevention. . .I expect it's both.

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    Bike Curious.... bobby c's Avatar
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    The good news is because your dad is in good shape, he will make a much quicker recovery than the out-of-shape people who have bypass surgery. Who knows - he may feel better than in years.

    Best of luck, and as JPPE asks - as an adult, there is no too young an age to know your vitals.....

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    Here's an interesting perspective...

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070510/...n_fat_people_7

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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe
    Do you know what your Dad's cholestrol level is by chance? Just as importantly, do you know what yours is?
    My dad had had his cholesterol checked pretty frequently the last 15 years or so. It always hovered between 200 and 250. More recently it's gone a little higher. His doctor told him he was a borderline case for drugs and was loath to put him on Lipitor for the rest of his life; now, my dad feels as though he should have gone on a low dose at the very least (hindsight is 20/20).

    I had my cholesterol checked a couple years ago. It was low. But unlike my dad I know about eating oatmeal every morning, staying away from eggs, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and keeping saturated fat to a minimum (in addition to exercising regularly, etc.). Nevertheless I will get it checked again soon.

    His diet has not been what it could be in the last 7 years, when my parents got divorced. He eats a lot of prepackaged food which I suspect is full of saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol. His heredity and diet are certainly the two main contributors to his disease.

    Thanks for all the kind and helpful words.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Paulie
    Here's an interesting perspective...

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070510/...n_fat_people_7
    That is an interesting article (I have never heard of this); however, it states "people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of internal fat," which is pretty much the polar opposite from my dad, who always maintained his weight through exercise, not through diet.

  10. #10
    Bill
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    A Healthy heart is not a simple thing

    Truly sorry to hear of your dad's heart problems. It's a very important organ which does a lot of work to keep us going.
    From experience though, don't be misled about the importance of cholesterol in the equation. Mine is normally high (280-300) and have been treated for that for twenty years to put that number down where some of the 'experts' say it should be, which by the way is an ever decreasing number. While mine was where 'it should be' I had 5 of the big ones which as I have stated before resulted in open heart surgery and later three stents. From experience I say it's a lot more involved than cholesterol if even related to cholesterol at all. I have been doing a lot of research on the subject and now know that there is another side of the story! If you're interested in some of what I have found out see my blog at http://pi-bill-articles.blogspot.com/. Most is about this very subject.
    I'm just now beginning cycling at 63 and looking to buy my first bike since highschool. But I know that keeping fit and not over-doing it is part of the equation. Don't have all the answers - but a lot of experience and still in the process of putting the X's, Y's and Z's together for myself.
    Tell your dad not to give up but to neither be misled that there is a silver bullet out there to solve this problem.

  11. #11
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    bon chance to your dad
    and thanks for the 'heads up'. I need that on a regular basis so I don't forget to keep a watchful eye on this bag O protoplasm.
    I'm sure the whole 50+ group will be anxious to hear how your father does, so do keep us in the loop.

    I know its hard, being only 34, not being able to be a bonefide 50+ forum member. But no worries, you'll eventually get to wear that 'golden mantel' of 'Olde Pharte'
    In the mean time, feel free to pop in anytime for the latest on liver spots, v-veins and walker bling.

  12. #12
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Check out the VAP Cholesterol test. http://cob.compassbank.com/index.php...d=511&Itemid=3
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  13. #13
    Bill
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    Diet and the Heart

    As I red further down in the forum I saw other comments related to diet and heart health which I think evidence points the other way on - (see my blogs list under Credible Evidence). I would suggest that if you want to be truly informed on this important subject you look at a couple (at least) articles on my blog http://pi-bill-articles.blogspot.com/ in the March archive from the European Heart Journal with evidence from clinical trials about the so called heart healthy diet. Another well researched article, by Anthony Colpo titled "Why the Low-Fat Diet is Stupid and Potentially Dangerous" is also in the March Archive section. This side of the story is not from vitamin peddlers but from scientific journals and research of the same. I hope some of this information will be a help to someone. It certainly changed many things in my life though maybe too late but I'm still kicking or cranking as the case may be. And be sure to tell your dad not to start statin drugs without reading what I have posted links to. IT's IMPORTANT, in my humble opinion and the mainstream doesn't always have it entirely correct.
    Bill

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    Bill, I agree with you regarding the dangers of statin drugs, but I disagree regarding a low-fat diet, provided that it is high in whole foods and fiber and low in refined flour and sugar. Splytz1's diet is significantly more healthful than his father's, and the oatmeal should provide at least a modicum of protection for his circulatory system.
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  15. #15
    el padre
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    am sorry for the bummer post)))
    Not a bummer at all but as you have implied a heads up for all of us to be aware...I am taking both cholesterol and High blood pressure medicine. Still keep going on the bike too..... peace

  16. #16
    Bill
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    Low fat diets

    Only one question on low fat diets - or maybe two. What evidence do you use to decide on diets and did you read the article?
    (http://pi-bill-articles.blogspot.com...-author-i.html. )

    It contains much evidence from medical journals most of which we're never told about because it doesn't fit into the 'party line' which hasn't over the last 30-40-50 years reduced cardiovascular disease and has most likely contributed to the rise in diabetes. Just read it and consider that there is more than one side of the story and always there's more to learn. I know because it's been my quest for the past two years when my stent installing cardiologist suggested I examine alternatives. There is a significant body of medical professionals who are of this opinion. Not quacks. When your health is at stake get all the information you can from trustworthy sources and decide for yourself. But I maintain you must take charge of it because it's your body. And eat healthy so you can cycle more and longer.

  17. #17
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    We all wish the best for you Dad, of course.
    My reaction to your post is a bit more fatalistic. I will do the best I can to live an active healthy lifestyle. I know we will not live forever. Genetics are a major factor. Doctors are as likely to do harm as good.
    you can get run over by a truck or killed by a jealous boyfriend/husband of your love.

    Again, best wishes to you and your Dad.

  18. #18
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    No one should assume anything. Always follow standard practice whether your are exercising or not. Get checked out prior to starting have annual physicals and blood tests, if you feel a problem get it checked out. The key thing is that while physical exercise, diet, not smoking will not ensure a long life it will improve your odds of living longer and having a better quality of life.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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    Pat
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    It was too bad that your father developed the problem. But it was a good thing that it was caught before it did him in. Hopefully, he will have a speedy recovery.

    I know a fair number of cyclists who have had triple bypass surgery. Often they assume that because they exercise and eat a reasonably healthy diet, that they are fine. I suspect that no amount of exercise will trump a bad diet as far as cardiovascular problems go. And I suspect that even a bunch of exercise and a good diet do not trump poor genetics.

    On the good side, the cyclists I know who have had triple bypass surgery have responded very well to it. Their recoveries have been very fast and they have reported feeling great. I suspect that the fast recovery is from being fit. I hope your father enjoys the same fast recovery.

  20. #20
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmodavis
    Only one question on low fat diets - or maybe two. What evidence do you use to decide on diets and did you read the article?
    (http://pi-bill-articles.blogspot.com...-author-i.html. )

    It contains much evidence from medical journals most of which we're never told about because it doesn't fit into the 'party line' which hasn't over the last 30-40-50 years reduced cardiovascular disease and has most likely contributed to the rise in diabetes. Just read it and consider that there is more than one side of the story and always there's more to learn. I know because it's been my quest for the past two years when my stent installing cardiologist suggested I examine alternatives. There is a significant body of medical professionals who are of this opinion. Not quacks. When your health is at stake get all the information you can from trustworthy sources and decide for yourself. But I maintain you must take charge of it because it's your body. And eat healthy so you can cycle more and longer.
    I read the article and thought it was pretty ridiculous. Yes, an absurdly low fat diet like the author was on is not good for you, unless you go to some serious extremes to make sure you get enough of the right nutrition, in spite of the extremely low fat intake. The author is arguing with himself; hardly anyone espouses a diet THAT low fat. He does everyone a disservise by screaming an article title that suggests otherwise.

    Geez............ now I'm feeding the trolls.
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    They told me it's ok to post mileage over in the commuting forum, so you'll probably find me there these days.

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    Jim Fixx is the best example I can think of. Makes a splash with how running is going to make you healthy and keels over with a heart attack. It is in the genes.

  22. #22
    Grumpy Old Bugga europa's Avatar
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    Of course my heart is healthy - if I karked it, who'd feed the cat?

    Seriously though, thanks for the heads up. I'm sorry for your family's problems - genetics can be cruel. Fortunately, my gene pool is generally long lived, though I suspect my sedentary lifestyle of recent years has worked to undo that advantage. We do assume that if we're fit enough to ride centuries up the side of tall mountains we'll live to be a zillion. Maybe it's a good thing we do think that way, but only if we do it from a rational base. Hope your Dad does well. Hope you do well. And thanks again for the heads up.

    Richard
    I had a good bike ... so I FIXED it

  23. #23
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne
    Genetics are a major factor. Doctors are as likely to do harm as good.
    you can get run over by a truck or killed by a jealous boyfriend/husband of your love.Again, best wishes to you and your Dad.
    Now, that's the way I want to go!!
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  24. #24
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    Lots of interesting fodder for thought on this thread, I always need to be reminded to stay aware of my health. Good luck to your Dad, and may he be traveling many miles again soon!

  25. #25
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    Thanks for all the interesting insight, comments, and links. Being in Massachusetts, my dad has access to great doctors (he's been going to Mass General), and they've put him on a beta blocker while they decide whether to put stents in or do bypass surgery - some doctors are less pessimistic about the condition of his arteries than others. However, they do want to do something within the next couple of weeks.

    I didn't mean to cause a ruckus by posting some general information about my "diet." I am skeptical of anything that is labeled a "diet" (look what happened to the Atkins, and so many other "diets"). I have specific beliefs about moderation and being reasonably intelligent and generally giving some thought to what I eat. I cook most of my own food and do so with olive oil. My dad's parents probably used lard, Crisco and butter. I remember going to my grandparents' house and my grandmother boiling vegetables for two hours, leaching all the nutrients out of them. I enjoy the occasional prime rib - New York has some of the best steakhouses in the world - but don't eat red meat more than once or twice a week. I have eliminated fast food and soda from my diet, and eat almost no processed foods or refined sugar. I think people who suggest that diet is a non (or minor)-factor in heart health are a little delusional, or in denial.

    I also tend to believe that we as Americans are overly obsessive about this stuff, and it gets us into trouble - it's well documented that despite their propensities for smoking, drinking too much, and not "watching what they eat," there is a lower incidence of obesity and coronary disease amongst the French, Italians and Japanese.

    What I want to do is teach my dad about this stuff. Cooking less processed jasmine or basmati rice is almost as quick as fixing a pouch of Uncle Ben's (or what have you), and tastes better. Salads are quick and easy to prepare. Buying minimally processed whole grain bread is just as easy as buying a loaf of white. That kind of thing. It's really about breaking habits.

    At least it'll be a start, and there's no doubt in my mind that it won't hurt.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

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