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Weird HR readings

Old 02-26-24, 06:35 AM
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Weird HR readings

My Garmin watch (Instinct 2 Solar) has always seemed to give reasonably accurate hr readings, but I had one ride recently where I had crazy high hr readings. There was a significant portion of the ride up at 180 bpm. Given that I am 72 years old and figure my max hr is 160-165 at the highest that doesn't seem possible. I was suffering no distress and it wasn't a hard workout. Should I just chalk it up as a fluke? All my regular health checkups have been fine, I ride daily and my numbers are generally good.

I saw the Peter Sagan news story and it made me wonder. If I had an arrhythmia event wouldn't I have at least felt some distress? It felt like a normal easy workout. I never felt like I got into the threshold zone during the ride in question. There was no pain, flutters, breathlessness, or any other anomalies that I noticed.
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Old 02-26-24, 07:38 AM
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I would mention it to my doctor at my next 'wellness' appointment...just in case
Make sure to describe the incident clearly and use past ride numbers to compare and contrast when talking to the doctor.
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Old 02-26-24, 08:07 AM
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Could just be a glitch, but it never hurts to check it out. At the least I would stop a couple of times on your next ride or two and check your pulse. I measure at the wrist for 6 seconds, then add a zero to get the beats per minute.
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Old 02-26-24, 08:11 AM
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Is it paired with a chest strap? If it's one of those that read from the wrist, I would expect some fluctuations and not so great accuracy.
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Old 02-26-24, 08:22 AM
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are the readings fluctuating? or flat? i have a chest strap monitor and when too dry i get flat readings until the sweat returns giving conductivity for the monitor and then readings go back to normal. usually only happens on descents. but fluctuating readings would imply that it is reading something. failing battery? interference from some other source? actual heart rate?
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Old 02-26-24, 08:42 AM
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If you had a prolonged episode of ectopic tachycardia and remained asymptomatic while performing vigorous exercise, you are in pretty good shape!
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Old 02-26-24, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
There was a significant portion of the ride up at 180 bpm.
.
A graph of your HR for this ride might help. It sounds like a sensor issue given your lack of symptoms. But the data might help to clarify. Did it just shoot straight up to 180 and stay there or was it creeping up? Are there any dropouts etc.
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Old 02-26-24, 09:56 AM
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Did you feel bad? Probably wasn't a issue. Very likely could just be a bad reading from the sensor shifting around. Don't figure what your max HR is. Find out. Ride as hard as you can soon after a brief warm up. Formulas and guesstimations of your max HR will be wildly wrong. Particularly if you've been a active person most of your life.

But don't put anything into Max HR itself. It is not really useful for much IMO.

I hit 197 bpm on my ride yesterday. But it was just a bad reading. In my haste yesterday I forgot to put it on before getting all dressed for the ride. And when my wife helped me feed the strap under my jersey, I forgot to get the strap in the correct position after she hooked it. 180 bpm I might believe.

Last edited by Iride01; 02-26-24 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 02-26-24, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
Did you feel bad? Probably wasn't a issue. Very likely could just be a bad reading from the sensor shifting around. Don't figure what your max HR is. Find out. Ride as hard as you can soon after a brief warm up. Formulas and guesstimations of your max HR will be wildly wrong. Particularly if you've been a active person most of your life.
No, I felt fine. My mhr has always been much higher than the formulas said. I have done a hard effort after a warm up to see what it was and hit 163, but It wasn't under ideal conditions so I think maybe I could go a little higher with a good warm up and an increasing effort on a flat or uphill road. I figured that was close enough, but expect I could probably hit at least a few beats higher.

I hit 197 bpm on my ride yesterday. But it was just a bad reading. In my haste yesterday I forgot to put it on before getting all dressed for the ride. And when my wife helped me feed the strap under my jersey, I forgot to get the strap in the correct position after she hooked it. 180 bpm I might believe.
I was wearing gloves with longer cuffs and a long sleeved jersey with cuffs both of which may have been impinging on the watch, so it could be something like that.
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Old 02-26-24, 10:31 AM
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Did you go under some power lines? Electromagnetic interference can cause bad HR readings from a chest strap.
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Old 02-26-24, 10:36 AM
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Agree that it's worth mentioning to your doctor next time you see her.

Quite a few people have asymtomatic atrial fibrillation; it can cause problems, and it can progress to symptomatic Afib. Your doc or the cardiologist he refers you to may decide it's a good idea to put you on medication to address it. Until or unless presumptive Afib starts happening a lot, I'm not sure it'd be worth the fancy sensor and 24 hour test, just because the odds are against catching it during the monitoring period.

Two more suggestions (from a non-medical person). First, hand on to the file from that ride (.fit or similar). Second, if you see a recurrence of this phenomenon, plan to see your PCP quickly. Ask for a referral to a cardiologist who's athletic, and take that doc both files.

And since I can't count gud, make sure your HRM battery is fresh, and consider using it with electrode gel to try to reduce spurious peaks.
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Old 02-26-24, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
A graph of your HR for this ride might help. It sounds like a sensor issue given your lack of symptoms. But the data might help to clarify. Did it just shoot straight up to 180 and stay there or was it creeping up? Are there any dropouts etc.
I hadn't really blown up the graph and taken a good look until now. It jumped from 110 to 180 all at once, then after a minute dropped to 165. Then over a 5 minute period it went up 10 bpm qnd dropped 10 bpm fairly gradually. All of that a little out of what I'd consider a normal range for me especially considering my perceived effort. Then it continued down for 3 more minutes to a normal range and the rest of the ride was pretty normal other than some of the seemed a little high and the hill at the end or the ride spiked for a second at 10 bpm higher than what I consider my mhr (I probably didn't push a really 100% effort in ideal conditions when I tested).

I wasn't at 180 as long as it looked like on the little graph. A closer look seems like it was less out of range, but still it was well over what my 72 year old heart would normally be doing especially since I wasn't riding hard.
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Old 02-26-24, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
And since I can't count gud, make sure your HRM battery is fresh, and consider using it with electrode gel to try to reduce spurious peaks.
No gel, this is a watch that uses what I think is some kind of optical sensor. Maybe I shouldn't be trusting that, but it has generally seemed to work fine up until now. BTW, it was about half charged (14 days).
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Old 02-26-24, 11:42 AM
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Sorry if I didn't answer everyones questions. Hopefully I did give enough info in the other answers.

BTW, I own a chest strap and don't use it. I have used a number of them in the past and always had problems with them. I had straps and sensors that died. Batteries didn't last long. I always seemed to have trouble with the readings being sporadic. I know they are supposed to be better than the optical ones in the watch, but other than the one day, so far I have not noticed any issues with my watch.

I do still have a chest strap and could use both for a while and compare. Probably have to run two apps though. If I see another set of anomylous readings I'll probably do that. Otherwise I think I'll just assume it was a glitch.
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Old 02-26-24, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by stevel610
Could just be a glitch, but it never hurts to check it out. At the least I would stop a couple of times on your next ride or two and check your pulse. I measure at the wrist for 6 seconds, then add a zero to get the beats per minute.
I have been trying to make it a point to take a look at the watch display at various points to see if the HR number matches what I'd expect for my perceived level of effort. If I see anything that looks out of whack, I'll stop and check it.

I remember the days of having to know what the levels of effort felt like because we didn't have fancy devices. I still think I have that skill pretty well mastered. At the very least I think I know what the aerobic zone feels like and when I leave either end of it. So I would likely know when the watch was wrong if I look at it. The problem is that I am not really in the habit of looking at the data much until later at home.
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Old 02-26-24, 01:49 PM
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I to sometimes see jumps of 30 or 40 BPM on my Polar Watch (2 different vintage chest straps). My Cleveland Clinic Sports Cardiologist said: don't worry about it, it's probably xxx. But he didn't write about xxx in the appointment summary and I don't remember what he said. Then he said, come back in about 3 years.
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Old 02-26-24, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
If you had a prolonged episode of ectopic tachycardia and remained asymptomatic while performing vigorous exercise, you are in pretty good shape!
Seems like a bad news, good news statement there, Doc.
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Old 02-26-24, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Seems like a bad news, good news statement there, Doc.
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Old 02-26-24, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I hadn't really blown up the graph and taken a good look until now. It jumped from 110 to 180 all at once, then after a minute dropped to 165. Then over a 5 minute period it went up 10 bpm qnd dropped 10 bpm fairly gradually. All of that a little out of what I'd consider a normal range for me especially considering my perceived effort. Then it continued down for 3 more minutes to a normal range and the rest of the ride was pretty normal other than some of the seemed a little high and the hill at the end or the ride spiked for a second at 10 bpm higher than what I consider my mhr (I probably didn't push a really 100% effort in ideal conditions when I tested).

I wasn't at 180 as long as it looked like on the little graph. A closer look seems like it was less out of range, but still it was well over what my 72 year old heart would normally be doing especially since I wasn't riding hard.
If it jumped from 110 to 180 in one second and stayed exactly at 180 for a minute before dropping off, then I wouldn't believe it was real. Especially if you didn't notice anything unusual and wasn't sprinting flat out at the time it happened! Normally it takes some considerable time for your heart rate to ramp up like that.

Disclaimer: I'm an engineer used to analysing performance data, not a medic.
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Old 02-26-24, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
If it jumped from 110 to 180 in one second and stayed exactly at 180 for a minute before dropping off, then I wouldn't believe it was real. Especially if you didn't notice anything unusual and wasn't sprinting flat out at the time it happened! Normally it takes some considerable time for your heart rate to ramp up like that.

Disclaimer: I'm an engineer used to analysing performance data, not a medic.
Yeah, I am pretty sure that my heart isn't capable of doing that. Pretty sure 180 bpm is well beyond it's ability to beat. That said, I don't know anything about arrhythmia. I figured maybe some erratic misfiring was possible and the numbers might not represent actual beats. I have a hard time imagining that I'd feel completely normal during the event though. Still seems way more likely to be some kind of failue in the sensing.
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Old 02-27-24, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
If it jumped from 110 to 180 in one second and stayed exactly at 180 for a minute before dropping off, then I wouldn't believe it was real. Especially if you didn't notice anything unusual and wasn't sprinting flat out at the time it happened! Normally it takes some considerable time for your heart rate to ramp up like that.

Disclaimer: I'm an engineer used to analysing performance data, not a medic.
Tachyarrhythmias have instantaneous onset, whereas physiological HR increases in response to effort ramp up over seconds. That said, I'm somewhat skeptical that this represents a real arrhythmia.
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Old 02-27-24, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
Tachyarrhythmias have instantaneous onset, whereas physiological HR increases in response to effort ramp up over seconds. That said, I'm somewhat skeptical that this represents a real arrhythmia.
I was wondering about that, good to know. How about our awareness of it happening? I would imagine a sudden jump in HR like that for no reason would be terrifying, but is that the case? When Im at my HR max during a hard effort I dont really feel it. Im more conscious of my breathing rate and legs burning up!
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Old 02-27-24, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I was wondering about that, good to know. How about our awareness of it happening? I would imagine a sudden jump in HR like that for no reason would be terrifying, but is that the case? When Im at my HR max during a hard effort I dont really feel it. Im more conscious of my breathing rate and legs burning up!
Awareness is variable. There are lots of people walking around in A-fib and completely unaware of it, but their ventricular rates are in the "normal" range and I suspect few of them have the awareness of internal states or the physiological demands of athletes. Raising the ventricular rate beyond where complete filling can occur reduces output and should be noticeable, especially during exercise. All that said, in a very fit person, an abnormal bump into the 180s might pass unnoticed during a mildish effort.
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Old 02-29-24, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha
Awareness is variable. There are lots of people walking around in A-fib and completely unaware of it, but their ventricular rates are in the "normal" range and I suspect few of them have the awareness of internal states or the physiological demands of athletes. Raising the ventricular rate beyond where complete filling can occur reduces output and should be noticeable, especially during exercise. All that said, in a very fit person, an abnormal bump into the 180s might pass unnoticed during a mildish effort.
That's interesting thanks. Fortunately I haven't seen anything like this (yet!) in my HR data. My Fitbit tracker has an algorithm for detecting A-fib, but I don't know how reliable that function is. Whenever I do get dubious HR data (which is usually only from my Fitbit during intense exercise) it always reads low rather than high. My Polar OH1 rarely misses a beat (pun intended).
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Old 02-29-24, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I was wondering about that, good to know. How about our awareness of it happening? I would imagine a sudden jump in HR like that for no reason would be terrifying, but is that the case? When I’m at my HR max during a hard effort I don’t really feel it. I’m more conscious of my breathing rate and legs burning up!
I've had arrhythmias but not Afib. Mine have been ventricular. I absolutely feel them, PVCs, vTach, that sort of thing. That stuff's under control now, thanks to over 2 years of cardiologist interventions. I've ridden with people who've had relatively brief Afib during the ride, which doesn't seem to be noticeable other than seeing HR go nuts and at the same time feel really weak. Ventricular stuff hurts.

When I was pushing MHR for more than a few seconds, I'd almost pass out. When I got dizzy, I backed it off. That's how one knows. One's oxygen is not limited by lungs, but it is by HR. Max is max. Syncope is next.
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