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Back on the bike after heart attack? Tell me your story.

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Back on the bike after heart attack? Tell me your story.

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Old 11-27-14, 08:26 AM
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Don in Austin
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Back on the bike after heart attack? Tell me your story.

Age 67. On the beginning of a group ride I keeled over at an intersection about the third week of October. A fellow rider jumped on my chest and beat the hell out of it, someone else called EMS who got me to an excellent heart hospital. They dropped my body temp 20* or so while working on me and I was not brought back to consciousness for almost 30 hours.

Here I am now with a triple bypass. Docs tell me to exercise all I want/can. Just nothing that pulls on the sternum which is all sewn together so no real bike until first of next year.

I lost about 15 lbs, so am now at a near perfect weight. I was forgetting things like the names of my three dogs but that is getting much better and I feel safe to drive.

I am taking walks up to 2 miles, and riding the BORING trainer. (MP3 player helps SLIGHTLY)

Previous to this I could ride a century though it made for a LONG day. I was not intimidated by steep hills. Had this heart attack occurred while I was climbing a STEEP hill to the observatory at Fort Davis, Texas a week prior I would not be around to post this, so I feel lucky in some aspects.

I basically feel pretty good, but just without the strength and stamina I was accustomed to. I am more sensitive to hunger making me light-headed.

The first statin I was prescribed sucked, but the current one does not seem to have side effects. Blood pressure numbers are good.

I would love to hear from others who have fought their way back. Of course, I would particularly like encouragement, but if I need reality check that is the way it has to be.

Thanks.....Don in Austin
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Old 11-27-14, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Don in Austin View Post
Age 67. On the beginning of a group ride I keeled over at an intersection about the third week of October. A fellow rider jumped on my chest and beat the hell out of it, someone else called EMS who got me to an excellent heart hospital. They dropped my body temp 20* or so while working on me and I was not brought back to consciousness for almost 30 hours.

Here I am now with a triple bypass. Docs tell me to exercise all I want/can. Just nothing that pulls on the sternum which is all sewn together so no real bike until first of next year.

I lost about 15 lbs, so am now at a near perfect weight. I was forgetting things like the names of my three dogs but that is getting much better and I feel safe to drive.

I am taking walks up to 2 miles, and riding the BORING trainer. (MP3 player helps SLIGHTLY)

Previous to this I could ride a century though it made for a LONG day. I was not intimidated by steep hills. Had this heart attack occurred while I was climbing a STEEP hill to the observatory at Fort Davis, Texas a week prior I would not be around to post this, so I feel lucky in some aspects.

I basically feel pretty good, but just without the strength and stamina I was accustomed to. I am more sensitive to hunger making me light-headed.

The first statin I was prescribed sucked, but the current one does not seem to have side effects. Blood pressure numbers are good.

I would love to hear from others who have fought their way back. Of course, I would particularly like encouragement, but if I need reality check that is the way it has to be.

Thanks.....Don in Austin
Hi, Don.

I am so glad to see you posting and that you are recovering. Whew, that is something I do not want to go through, so I can't give you any practical advice. Just a hearty welcome back. Are you still wearing boots when you ride? Also, get a couple of Spinerval DVDs - they will really help to keep you motivated while on the trainer. They have one for Clydesdales, which is relatively easy.

Keep us informed!
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Old 11-27-14, 08:45 AM
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Don in Austin
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox View Post
Hi, Don.

I am so glad to see you posting and that you are recovering. Whew, that is something I do not want to go through, so I can't give you any practical advice. Just a hearty welcome back. Are you still wearing boots when you ride?
Work shoes and platform pedals.

Originally Posted by DnvrFox View Post
Also, get a couple of Spinerval DVDs - they will really help to keep you motivated while on the trainer. They have one for Clydesdales, which is relatively easy.

Keep us informed!
Thanks, Don
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Old 11-27-14, 08:52 AM
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I had a minor heart attack in November 2000 at the tender age of 46. I was racing my daughter up a very steep, long hill when I started feeling a strange pain. Rode 25 miles back to the car then 35 miles the next day before deciding that I should go to the ER.

They wouldn't fix what was wrong as it's a tiny artery 90% blocked where they couldn't get a stent. Too small to warrant the dangers of open heart surgery. The rest of my heart looked find during the cardiac cath. Evidently years of cycling and some running made for great collateral circulation and I probably wouldn't have found the problem except that I was doing a 100% max effort.

As for recovery, I didn't need surgery so that wasn't an issue. I did some PT on a treadmill and stationary bike but the the PT guy could tell that I was way past what they normally provided. I started working out at the YMCA on stationary bikes after about a month. About 2 months later winter was finally over and I started riding outside slowly. Four months after that I went up that damned hill again!

My biggest obstacle to recovery was my doctor! He put me on a large dosage of beta blockers to keep my heart rate down. I often couldn't get it above 100 BPM and this really slowed me down. I asked him what's the max heart rate I can let my heart get up to, he said 105 BPM. I then asked for a treadmill stress test to see what I could safely do, but he refused.

So I took it upon myself to find my max heart rate. I'd bump it up 5 or 10 BPM while doing some intervals (if the beta blocker would let me). Over the course of a few months I found out that I'd start getting chest pain around 170 BPM. So I set my heart rate monitor to start beeping at 160 BPM.

Eventually I switched cardiologists and this doctor was a marathon runner. She understood me and greatly reduced my prescription of beta blockers contingent upon my always wearing a heart rate monitor while exercising. She thought that 150 BPM was fine.

I did get back into racing after that, but was much too slow in crits and road races. Therefore I got into distance riding like doing double centuries and lots of normal centuries. The last couple of years I've only did a couple of centuries, but have done a lot more recreational riding.

Do work with your doctor on the medications. You'll probably need some adjustments or changes. I recommend exercising with a heart rate monitor set to beep at a certain heart rate. If they give you a stress test, that could help here.

Walking is great. I also walk quite a bit including doing a couple of half marathons a year with my wife. I feel more beat up after walking a half marathon than after riding a century, but it's all good.
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Old 11-27-14, 09:34 AM
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Can't offer any advice but glad to see you made it through a terrible situation. Looking forward to more of your ride stories once you get back on the road.
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Old 11-27-14, 11:21 AM
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Glad to hear you came out as good as it sounds you did. No personal experience here but would suggest that you avoid chest bump victory celebrations until the sternum is up to it.
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Old 11-27-14, 11:41 AM
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Glad you are here to tell the story and to continue. My story is pretty simple. About 5 yrs. ago I felt the tight chest and arm thing so went to the ER. Cardiologist said I had a heart attack. I said "No. I didn't." She said "You are in denial."
Spent several days in the hospital with all my vital signs and tests showing normal. Had no pain. The cardiologist at the hospital (not the ER one) came in and said, "Your heart is getting all the blood it needs. You have no blockage and your heart is actually stronger than normal." Of course I asked, "So, what happened?" His answer was that it was a heart "spasm" and I should just go home and live my life. Which I have. Never had another symptom of any kind.
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Old 11-27-14, 04:44 PM
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I posted the following on another thread two minutes ago. Nothing has changed since then so I'll just copy and paste it here if that's not being so bold and lazy.

You should be fine. Give yourself a chance to recover. The time will pass very quickly and you will be back to full riding strength.

June of 2002 was my bypass. I had an additional stent in November of 2011 and two more in September of this year that forced me to postpone my solo cross country bike ride till April of 2015. Bypass and stents fix our heart problems. I look at it as giving the engine a tune up.


p.s. My ride in the spring begins in Ocala, Fla. and ends in Austin. We should meet at Javelina Bar on Rainey St., where my son Brandon tends bar, when I arrive at the end of April.

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Old 11-27-14, 09:10 PM
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It's amazing how much stronger you get with time. It was only five years ago I needed a walker to get around after my episode. Now I'm riding and back at work and enjoying life. You'll get there. The time will go fast. One of the biggest problems with post cardios is depression. If you feel that your going down that road, know that you're not alone and it's quite common. Keep posting about your progress
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Old 11-28-14, 08:08 AM
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I've been very lucky twice. Just had my second heart attack and stent in a year earlier this month and am already back to work and going to the health club. No cycling just yet as I did not get my winter bike prepared before our rapid decent into winter. The bike is on the agenda for this weekend.

I've got a horrible family hx for cardiac problems on both sides of the family and had my first heart attack last year at age 49. I had been cycling fairly seriously for about three years and heard a lot of "See, that bike riding didn't do him any good. He still had a heart attack." following my brief stay in the hospital. Truth be told, my cardiologist, cardiac PA, general physician, and cardiac rehab therapist were all amazed by my extremely rapid and complete recovery, both times. My cardiologist said that my active lifestyle was a huge factor in how well I came through these events and may have saved my life on this last one which "could have been the big one" with a 95+ blockage high on the LAD. I lost my father, uncle, and a grandfather to heart attacks at an early age. My other grandfather also had heart trouble but died of CA. I have a cousin who was crippled by a heart attack and vascular problems in his 50s. So I consider myself very lucky and grateful to God, my family, my doctors, and my healthy cycling lifestyle. I can't escape crappy genetics nor undo the indulgences of my past, but I can give at least a good chunk of the credit for me still being here fully functional to cycling.

Good luck in your recovery. I hope all goes well for you

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Old 11-29-14, 01:48 AM
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Mr. Don in Austin - Sorry to hear about your heart attack but glad to hear about your survival and recovery.
I am 64 and had a heart attack last year. After I got out of the hospital, I attended a cardiac recovery class which was excellent. Since then I have been riding, fast walking and using hand weights. Quit smoking and changed my diet 100%.

Now the good news. My recent blood tests all showed cholesterol numbers to be better than recommended. My heart function has improved from 15% to 40% (65% is normal). Two weeks ago I had a treadmill stress test and the doctor's report said my heart had "excellent functional capacity". I can ride 25 miles without a problem and I'm trying to go further all the time. I wear a heart rate monitor when I ride and I back off at 140bpm.

I was knock knock knockin' on heaven's door but survived. Scary times and I battle post-cardiac event depression (illogical but real). I wish you a full recovery and I hope you'll post periodically.

Jan

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Old 11-29-14, 07:27 AM
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I dodged the actual heart attack bullet but ended up having bypass after being 90% blocked in the left main coronary artery. I only needed one bypass. I was actually in very good shape leading up to it and 5 weeks after the bypass I climbed mount baldy (10080 feet). Felt fine. Did it again and had a serious bout of Atrial Fib that took about 15 minutes to subside. I was fine and walked down with no issues. 6 months into it I backpacked to over 10000 feet. I paid for that one with inflamation of my chest wall because the incision was not yet healed. Took some prescribed anti inflamitories and that took care of it. That was 14 years ago and I have been fine and ride quite a bit now. I do take aspirin and a blood pressure med.
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Old 11-29-14, 10:47 AM
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I'm 67, about the same scenario as yourself a few years ago. The only thing I have to add is patience - you can get back to hard exercising surprisingly quickly, but it takes at least a year to feel totally 'normal'. That operation really messes with your insides.
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Old 11-29-14, 11:40 AM
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Glad you survived! I always wonder in cases like this if being fit made a difference in survival. But staying fit makes a difference in health and enjoying life. Imagine if you had no exercise regimen; even if you didn't have a heart attack, what kind of life would you have? I know from personal experience, fitness has improved the quality of my life. Wishing you continued success on your recovery.
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Old 11-30-14, 05:12 PM
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Congratulations on surviving your heart attack. Mine was 5 years ago. I will +1 what others have said and add my experience with the light headed issue. I have always had low normal blood pressure and after my heart attack my cardiologist told me that there is statistical evidence that ACE inhibitors improve mortality rates regardless of blood pressure. So he put me on the ACE inhibitors along with the beta blocker and other usual drugs. After a couple of months of regular exercise I was experiencing very low blood pressure and standing up was usually an adventure. Cardiologist cut the ACE inhibitor in half and then after another couple of months cut it out completely. I still have a little bit of dizziness if I don't stay fully hydrated. Now I never pass a porta pot on a ride over an hour. It takes a little planning but it is better than falling down.
As others have said, you recover and the riding is fine although you may not be able to hammer as hard as you could when you were younger and didn't have heart damage. Keep riding.
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Old 12-02-14, 07:06 AM
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I had a STEMI this July while out for a 30 mile bike ride. I got to the hospital pretty quickly. They stented my RCA which was nearly 100% blocked. I had another stent for 85% blockage in left circumflex artery a few weeks later. That month I was pretty much a just a raw nerve. In August I started some light exercising, walking mostly. It was very scary as sometimes my heart would race and pound after only a minimal effort.

In Sept I went into cardiac rehab. That has really helped. For an hour or so you do various exercises under controlled conditions. It helps you find your limits without too much stress. I'm nearly done this stage. It has been very, very good for me.

I am riding my bikes again (although it's getting too cold to ride much). Not very far and not very fast but it feels great to be out again. I can't come close to the effort I used to make before my attack. That may come in time. I really miss going for a long ride or jog until the sweat poured off of me.

Good luck to you!
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