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Heart Rate Monitor – Better Believe it

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Heart Rate Monitor – Better Believe it

Old 03-06-21, 07:55 PM
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Bob S
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Heart Rate Monitor – Better Believe it

Several months ago my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor, HRM, started reporting Max and Avg heart rates over 150. I am in my mid 70s and ride 30 – 40 miles several times a week, previously my resting heart rate ranged from the upper 50s to the low 60s. I set had the maximum heart rate parameter in my Garmin at 140 beats per minute and normally kept my maximum below that number although looking back at the data my pulse rate had been climbing occassionally for a couple of months before the average suddenly jumped to between 150 and 177. My Max rates jumped to as high as 197 with the average of these in the mid 180s. I did not notice any shortness of breath or fatigue or other indicators of heart issues so without the HRM I would not have known I had a heart issue.

When my max rate first crossed 150 I thought my equipment was failing so in order I replaced the strap, then the sensor, and finally my Garmin 1000 when it also stopped reporting my cadence. With all new equipment my pulse continued to be in uncomfortable territory. I have no prior history of heart issues and my doctors tell me I am in excellent health.

I talked to a cardiologist, who is a bike rider and helped a friend/bike rider with AFib, who immediately put me on a heart rate monitor. He called me immediately when the results came back and said I was in AFid for the duration of the monitoring and my hear rate had reached 222 beats per minutes. My resting heart rate had risen to the mid 90s. The very highest pulse rates came during my bike rides during which I did not have any issues with fatigue or change in my breathing.

Yesterday I had a Cardioversion, electric shock done while under anesthesia, which restored my normal heart rate. They also put a scope down my throat, Transesophageal Echo, to scan my heart for any blood clots that might be released by the cardioversion. I will see my cardiologist next week for follow up which hopefully will allow me to continue riding as before and drink coffee and wine.

So my advice is to use a heart rate monitor and watch for any change in your pulse.
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Old 03-06-21, 08:44 PM
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I am the only one of four surviving members of my family that has not had afib. My two brothers and my sister have all had procedures to correct irregular heart beats. I am the youngest at 66 and ride quite a bit. My Dr. looks at my stats from my ride that is recorded on my iPhone via an Apple Watch. My resting heart rate is low most times especially after riding. Lately when I spend too much time at work my watch sends me a message that my heart is racing, I can feel it like a fluttering in my chest. I have had EKG and stress tests and the cardiologist tells me I’m fine. I still wonder though .
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Old 03-06-21, 09:39 PM
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I'm kind of surprised that doctors will look at your personal devices and reports... even just to indicate more testing.
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Old 03-07-21, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
I'm kind of surprised that doctors will look at your personal devices and reports... even just to indicate more testing.
There is no "doctors". There is only a plethora of individuals and they aren't all the same. A doctor who refuses to consider data that I present isn't going to be my doctor for very long.
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Old 03-07-21, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
I'm kind of surprised that doctors will look at your personal devices and reports... even just to indicate more testing.
I'd be surprised if my cardiologist didn't look at my data, especially if I were to come in with a concern. Yes, it may only indicate that more accurate medical tests are needed, but to ignore them completely?
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Old 03-07-21, 10:35 AM
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Did you just arbitrarily set your max HR to 140 or did you go out and find out what it was or did a ride to establish your LTHR? 140 sounds low for even a 70 yo if you have been riding or doing cardio stuff for most of your adult life.

However, the jumps if they are actually over what your true max HR is are concerning.
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Old 03-07-21, 01:21 PM
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Used standard calc: 220 - age = 145. I started serious riding again about 8 years ago after turning around from more than ten years so seriously declining health. Had a hard time doing 4 miles on flat roads before I turned it around. So I am using a more conservative 140 and riding around 90% + most of the time.
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Old 03-07-21, 01:22 PM
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Hope yours will if you have a concern...
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Old 03-07-21, 01:53 PM
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"My Max rates jumped to as high as 197 with the average of these in the mid 180s. I did not notice any shortness of breath or fatigue or other indicators of heart issues so without the HRM I would not have known I had a heart issue."

Can you explain that for us? I can't fathom how your heartrate could be so high without noticing. I do believe you, just trying to make sense of it.
Glad you got care and are attentive to it now.
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Old 03-07-21, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob S View Post
Used standard calc: 220 - age = 145. I started serious riding again about 8 years ago after turning around from more than ten years so seriously declining health. Had a hard time doing 4 miles on flat roads before I turned it around. So I am using a more conservative 140 and riding around 90% + most of the time.
That is a poor way to set max HR for cycling. It works for doctors and their stress tests and other things because that is how their metrics and things they are looking for are based. But it's not a true measure of how fast you might be able to run your heart while cycling.

My calculation comes to 157. But that is what I can comfortably maintain for an hour or two. When I do max efforts to climb a hill for sixty seconds or so, I'm easily pushing 175 sometimes bumping into 180 bpm.

If your cardiologist hasn't given you any reason to maintain at or below a particular number, then you can run your heart as fast as you want for as long as you can. Sure, when you first start doing that you might feel a little light headed, sick to your stomach or about to pass out, but once your body gets used to your heart going that fast, it's not a problem. Other than your ride will be shorter if you try to keep max HR for the entire time.
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Old 03-07-21, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob S View Post
So my advice is to use a heart rate monitor and watch for any change in your pulse.
Wow! So glad you were using the monitor and was eventually convinced the equipment was working and the result was a visit to your doctor.

Makes me think a bit!
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Old 03-08-21, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Champlaincycler View Post
"My Max rates jumped to as high as 197 with the average of these in the mid 180s. I did not notice any shortness of breath or fatigue or other indicators of heart issues so without the HRM I would not have known I had a heart issue."

Can you explain that for us? I can't fathom how your heartrate could be so high without noticing. I do believe you, just trying to make sense of it.
Glad you got care and are attentive to it now.
i used to suffer from frequent afib and while cycling would know immediately when it started as my energy level would drop, I would have difficulty maintaining 13 mph on the flat and my HR monitor would show 160+. I never felt any chest discomfort. On the other hand, I used to ride with a guy who was in constant afib and after a sprint, his HR would hit 220 and he didn’t feel anything!
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Old 03-08-21, 08:48 AM
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I suspect the lesson here is not that the pulse exceeded a specific number, but that the pattern shifted; sudden (measured) change from around 140 maximum to nearly 200 bpm, concurrent with a shift of average pulse from <140 to 175 over a few months. It's worth talking to a cardiologist if you see something like that.

I'm not too surprised there were no other symptoms. Some people can tell when AFib kicks in by fatigue, lack of energy, or a feeling like their heart is running away in their chest. Other people are asymptomatic. When you consider atrial fibrillation can lead to a stroke and possible death -- well, as I said, it's worth talking to a cardiologist.
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Old 03-08-21, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
A doctor who refuses to consider data that I present isn't going to be my doctor for very long.
I know what you mean. The most I ever really mention to them is something like "You know, I rode my bike 30 miles this morning" or something about my weekly or monthly mileage. I think if I tried to present a printout of my most recent HR zone data from my rides it would just get nothing more than a quick glance.

To the OP: Glad to hear you were able to determine something was wrong and you sought help. Hope it all works out for you.
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Old 03-08-21, 05:13 PM
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Agreed, Bob S.

We age, and our body parts change. My doc has wanted me to go on a pacemaker for years. To shut him up, I did HR monitoring once or twice a year for a few years. Finally, 9 months ago or so, he reported low HR (high 30s while asleep, and I'm no athlete) and Afib-like high HR, so I accepted the pacer.
Late in the 2019 cycling season, I notice my HR jumping from 130s to 180s for no apparent reason and with no apparent effects. I assumed HRM malfunction, but that was actually the first sign of Afib. It's pretty scary - supposedly, Afib allows clots to form more easily, and that's the stroke risk. Now I'm on a beta-blocker and a blood thinner. My doc has set no limit on my HR, but it's really hard to go above 115-120 with normal biking due to the beta blocker. (Intervals can drive my HR into the 140s, but I have never learned to love intervals.)

Anyway, if you're in your 70s and your HRM reports anomalous high HRs, check it out with your doc. Afib may be more likely than an HRM malfunction. This may be one area where going to the doc first is the best way to save money.
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Old 03-08-21, 09:43 PM
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After reading this excellent cautionary thread, i will start wearing my ancient Polar HRM. If anything, it will prompt me to try to stay in my training zone and alert me if my heart goes wacko (technical medical term).
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Old 03-09-21, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
After reading this excellent cautionary thread, i will start wearing my ancient Polar HRM. If anything, it will prompt me to try to stay in my training zone and alert me if my heart goes wacko (technical medical term).
Typically HR monitors for cycling don't alert you if your heart goes "Wacko".

If you are healthy, nothing wrong with running your HR as fast as you can for a portion of your ride.
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Old 03-09-21, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Typically HR monitors for cycling don't alert you if your heart goes "Wacko".

If you are healthy, nothing wrong with running your HR as fast as you can for a portion of your ride.
Only referring to an abnormally high rate during normal activity, not when I stress test my heart by climbing a hill all out maxing myself. I like pushing myself to my max on occasion Appreciate your response.
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Old 03-09-21, 10:31 AM
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No doubt HR monitors take on additional importance in older adults My first "known"Afib event was discovered after jogging on a warmer than usual Spring day.

I experienced the classic triple P-Wave which accounted for producing a 130bpm HR reading while at rest. Like many of you i still have terrifically low resting HR of 40-42 ......

For what it's worth - I would suggest using a HR monitor an mobile app that record HR over a period of time - but do it once in a while as you lay perfectly still.

In most cases - you should record a really flat HR for minutes at time that does not very by more than two or three BPM . If you have a result showing a resting HR jumping up and down by five or more BPM - you probably are in arrhythmia and highly likely to experience AFIB in the future. Dick Cranium is not a doctor but he does play one on the forums.....
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Old 03-09-21, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Champlaincycler View Post
"My Max rates jumped to as high as 197 with the average of these in the mid 180s. I did not notice any shortness of breath or fatigue or other indicators of heart issues so without the HRM I would not have known I had a heart issue."

Can you explain that for us? I can't fathom how your heartrate could be so high without noticing. I do believe you, just trying to make sense of it.
Glad you got care and are attentive to it now.
I ride the same basic route, 30 to 40 miles at 16 mph, with a number of variations and I really did not notice anything. My max, avg and time for the various routes never varied significantly for previous rides Sure there may have been times when I was slightly more tired but those could could have been for any number of reasons.

2 years ago a friend who I rode with once a week was also diagnosed with AFib. He did not notice anything either except for the two time passers by found him lying in the road next to his bike. The last time he rode straight into a big dumpster. He had no memory of what happened either time.

I guess you could say it can creep up on you with out any warning other than in my case seeing significant changes in my heart rate data.
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Old 03-09-21, 08:04 PM
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I find these discussions about max HR to be confusing, and perhaps confused. To me the question is, why do you need to talk about or consider max HR? I think the term has at least two meanings.

One is, what is the maximum rate of beating that my heart is physically capable of beating, regardless of formulas, equations, charts, doctors' orders, or training plans? Maximum means, there is a value or a speed that you cannot go above. But there's a logical problem here. Can you ever prove you cannot go above a certain number? Can't squeeze out just one more BPM? You cannot PROVE it, you can only show that you did not do it, which is not the same thing!

Another meaning is, is there a level of heartrate that my medical community (meaning, my doctor) thinks is a healthy upper limit while allowing me to maintain a quest toward improved fitness? I assume that if my doctor directs me to observe a maximum, she has some idea of it. One can assume this "maximum" will be chosen to keep my from creating hazardous conditions, considering my health and my risk factors: Porkiness, family history, diet, fitness, activity level and whatever else. But I would bet this number is less than my physical maximum capability.

Not finally, there is always the equation value, which is not a unique criterion because guess why? There are multiple equations hence multiple criteria, hence no absolute rule!

So if my workout equipment (Polar HRM, Wahoo Elemnt, Garmin or whatever workout tool) wants me to input a maximum heart rate, what number makes more sense?
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Old 03-10-21, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I find these discussions about max HR to be confusing, and perhaps confused. To me the question is, why do you need to talk about or consider max HR? I think the term has at least two meanings.
I really don't think max HR has much value either. When most of us get an HR monitor for the first time, we seem to think that there is something magical about that number and whomever has the highest max HR must be the fastest cyclist or some crazy thing that makes a lot of our conversations revolve around it.

Perhaps it's because that it one of the first and simplest ways we are suggested by the device maker to set our HR Zones. IMO, if you are going to use HR for setting zones and training, the LTHR or FTHR is about the gold standard for HR training.

Max HR doesn't take into account the volume of blood that your heart can pump. Nor does anything just measuring BPM. And volume of blood pumped per beat is different from person to person. That's why some young people like my son have a much lower HR going up the same hill at the same speed as I am.
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Old 03-10-21, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I find these discussions about max HR to be confusing, and perhaps confused. To me the question is, why do you need to talk about or consider max HR? I think the term has at least two meanings.
I'm afraid you're missing the point.

Atrial fibrillation, a disruption of the heart's rhythm, can lead to blood clotting in the heart, stroke, and death. AFib, as it's colloquially known, can be treated to mitigate the risks. The symptom is an apparent acceleration in pulse.

What you put into your device should be your maximum pulse, whatever it is. My max pulse, for instance is in the low 160s, and I usually get pretty close to that a couple times a year.. If I develop AFib, the consumer grade HRM I wear on my bike will likely show a pulse in the 180-220 beats per minute range. That would be a warning, indicating I would need to call my cardiologist.
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Old 03-10-21, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I find these discussions about max HR to be confusing, and perhaps confused. To me the question is, why do you need to talk about or consider max HR? I think the term has at least two meanings.

One is, what is the maximum rate of beating that my heart is physically capable of beating, regardless of formulas, equations, charts, doctors' orders, or training plans? Maximum means, there is a value or a speed that you cannot go above. But there's a logical problem here. Can you ever prove you cannot go above a certain number? Can't squeeze out just one more BPM? You cannot PROVE it, you can only show that you did not do it, which is not the same thing!

Another meaning is, is there a level of heartrate that my medical community (meaning, my doctor) thinks is a healthy upper limit while allowing me to maintain a quest toward improved fitness? I assume that if my doctor directs me to observe a maximum, she has some idea of it. One can assume this "maximum" will be chosen to keep my from creating hazardous conditions, considering my health and my risk factors: Porkiness, family history, diet, fitness, activity level and whatever else. But I would bet this number is less than my physical maximum capability.

Not finally, there is always the equation value, which is not a unique criterion because guess why? There are multiple equations hence multiple criteria, hence no absolute rule!

So if my workout equipment (Polar HRM, Wahoo Elemnt, Garmin or whatever workout tool) wants me to input a maximum heart rate, what number makes more sense?
I avoid philosophical arguments and use my highest observed heart rate.

But I agree with pdlamb that the point is that spikes are a concern that one should bring to the attention of their doctor.
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Old 03-10-21, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
I'm afraid you're missing the point.

Atrial fibrillation, a disruption of the heart's rhythm, can lead to blood clotting in the heart, stroke, and death. AFib, as it's colloquially known, can be treated to mitigate the risks. The symptom is an apparent acceleration in pulse.

What you put into your device should be your maximum pulse, whatever it is. My max pulse, for instance is in the low 160s, and I usually get pretty close to that a couple times a year.. If I develop AFib, the consumer grade HRM I wear on my bike will likely show a pulse in the 180-220 beats per minute range. That would be a warning, indicating I would need to call my cardiologist.
Ok fine, I did not think to mention any of the specific forms of heart disease which may need to address HR. My point which I feel you may have missed, is that one use case is to add in any medical guidelines you may have been given. But how those relate to zone setting and other traditional uses? And if a spike is what’s critical, isn’t the HRM slow response sensor? How do you know it won’t miss a spike? That is one argument in favor of power meters rather than HRMs, at least for training purposes. If is expected to anticipate the moment of spike, then it is predicting the future and false alarms are likely.

And if the main use case for an HRM is as a caution alarm to prevent athlete-induced overstress of any sort, then the device needs to have a salient warning that will cut through the rider’s inattention.

I think we may be putting too much faith in a device which is not medically designed or rated, and which is priced as a piece of consumer electronics. Can you trust it with your life? Not sure I trust it to compute my zones, but I don’t think I need it for that.
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