/ Fitness after heart attack
Last Wed I ran 2 sessions of about 10k and whilst I was a bit stiff I put that down to being stuck in a car for about 6hrs on Tue.
At 1:10 Thu morning I woke up with chest pains which abated after a while so went back to bed which was when the big one hit.
So now after getting released from hospital I have been told to limit my walking to about 2 sessions of ten minutes a day, avoid unnecessary trips up stairs, not to drive for two weeks and not to do anything that involves pulling or pushing.
At first I didn’t believe that I would suddenly be so unfit, although it has become clear that my stamina is now only a fraction of what it was.
Another interesting observation was that of the approx 30 people on the various Cardiology wards the majority were amateur footballers (they either already knew each other or their visitors did), one who was training to run a marathon, a couple of squash players and some ex military. In short there wasn’t anyone who was obviously unfit or seriously overweight, which seemed to imply that perhaps that group either don’t get heart attacks or would only ever have one.
How long ago did you have a heart attack? How bad was it? Did you have an echocardiogram afterwards? If so what did it show? Were there any wall motion abnormalities?
How long ago did you have a heart attack? – Last Thursday
How bad was it? – First one, so nothing really to compare it with. Felt like a pair of builders had taken sledge hammers to the front and rear of my chest.
Did you have an echocardiogram afterwards? If so what did it show? Were there any wall motion abnormalities? – Yes to the test but not sure of the details, will note the questions and ask the Cardiac Rehab Centre.
It seemed I fell into the average category as my stay was minimal and there weren’t any of the complications that I saw others having.
Please treat all this as very broad brush since I've no idea how serious your heart attack was compared to mine, nor what damage has been done, nor what meds you are on but...
I had a heart attack nine yers ago actually while climbing, one stent fitted and a week in hospital. Afterwards I could barely walk any distance and suddenly discovered how much uphill there was around my home but I think that was partly die to the meds which I was given, probably to prevent me overdoing things in the first weeks.
I was walking a reasonable distance on flattish ground (5 miles?) in the Dales within 6 weeks, walked up to Stickle Tarn in Langdale the following week and got back on the rock the same week. This was only gritstone severes, slabs only and seconding only (Before the attack I was leading comfortably in the E grades).
Within two and half months I was seconding Chequers Buttress (HVS) and Brown's Eliminate (E1) at Froggatt. Also walked up Scafell Pike around the same time.
By four months I was back soloing gritstone VS and then leading HVs though it felt very hard on the sharp end. A week later I got knocked back on everything I tried at Stanage so it seems to be a case of two steps up and one back
From there it was a question of building confidence and stamina. These days the good news is that I scarcely think about the heart attack though my stamina is nothing like what it was before the attack and there does seem to be a ceiling on how far I can develop it. I get pumped much more easily and much sooner than I remember and recovery is slower. Whether this is due to the heart attack or just being eight years older I can't say.
So the good news is that (assuming your attack was no worse than mine) you can get back into climbing. The bad news is that you may notice a deterioration in performance even after your recovery but, if you are like me, you will find it as enjoyable as ever. As ever the secret is to listen to your body and don't try to rush things.
As I said, I've no way of knowing how much, if any, of this is relevant to your case but I hope it helps.
Your doctor should give you advice about what you should be doing. However I would advise for at least the first month or so take it easy, gentle walking is enough. After that I would advise slowly and gradually increasing activity levels, judge how you feel during and afterwards, and be guided by this. If you were previously quite an active person, and it sounds like you were, then I think you really need to pace yourself here.
In the long run, as long as it was a mild heart attack and there is no serious damage to the heart it should be possible to regain a very good level of fitness, perhaps better than before. However it is important to address any factors which may have contributed to putting you at higher risk of a heart attack in the first place. I would say that this is fundamental to a good long term recovery.
The fact that Will knows what ECG stands for and knows technical phrases like wall motion abnormalities suggests he knows far more about this than I do so I'd take careful heed of his advice and treat my post as a one-off anecdote which may not even be relevant to your case
In the absence of any help from the nhs I started doing short walks, a mile or so on flat trails, legs felt heavy at first, very slow,but I soon felt able to get back to a normal cadence. My wife came with me, did her the world of good, she lost half a stone. I find the best rehab walk is not too far, perhaps three miles max, but at a brisk pace, rather than a longer slower walk. I am used to using a pair of poles, sort of modified nordic walking style, and these both assist and give my cv system a better work out. Just starting back at the gym wearing a heart monitor set to a maximum heart rate.
The one nhs rehab session I went to involved a truly minimal circuit on gear apparently rescued from a skip. Attitude totally negative. I picked up a tiny dumb bell like those used by girls doing aerobics and was told, that's too heavy (I warm up on 30lbs per arm in the gym, bicep curls). I went up two steps on a primitive step device, got warned again, tried moving sideways on the low step as in step aerobics, got a sarcastic putdown 'oh, you'll put us all to shame'.
I am worried about the number of drugs I am supposed to be taking, most to aggresively lower my normally low blood pressure - I started to get dizzy moments. So I am now querying those. Noone seems interested in finding why I had the problem in the first place. Found I had a cholesterol level nudging into the danger zone years ago which I wasn't told about. I now wonder if a much reduced activity over the last eighteen months - missed my usual month in the alps - allowed the blockage to build up.
So - if you find yourself getting unusually out of breath up hills, don't dismiss the idea of a heart or artery problem - get it looked at, preferably by a gp who knows what he is doing!
If you are going to do it youself, then take a phone, a 300mg aspirinand your GTN spray (if you've been given one) with you incase, and make sure you stay in an area with a good mobile signal. Maybe start off at your local wall so you've always got people around you.
Thanks everyone, some very interesting comments. Spoke to the Cardio Rehab nurse today and apparently the left cardio pump chamber has been affected, there is a mild irregularity and in her words I may be back to normal in about 6 months.
I have my assessment on the 28th so will take things easy until then and then think about stepping up my exercise level, but living on the side of a hill, that is currently coated in snow with two energetic dogs makes the ‘10 minutes gentle walk’ almost impossible.
do not take too seriously anything anyone says on here who's not seen you. good luck with it.
I don't. But then you'll know that The China Study is not peer reviewed either.
With regard to TCS, it is epidemielogical - and correlation does not equal causation. That is the big weakness of T C Cambell's book. I'd recommend some of Ben Goldacre's books for insight in to the weakness of epidemiology.
With regard to the link I posted, you seem quite dismissive of it, but anyone with A'Level maths or similar will be able to follow the gist of the statistical analysis (the articles are quite comprehensive and detailed in this respect), and make up their own mind.
Thing is I did applied maths at university, hated pure, and hated stats and probability even more.
There's also a big chapter in TCS that says correlation doesn't equal causation (the thing about the telegraph poles) so nothing new there. Anyway, i havent quite finished reading yet.
Thanks for the info anyway, plenty more reading to do.
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