Exercise Tips for Heart Problems Healthy Heart Part 3

Inspiration & motivation! A story that gives hope.

Part 3: Exercise tips for heart problems, A journey (below)

Part 1: Exercise tips for heart problems Healthy heart, an overview.

Part 2: Exercise tips for heart problems Healthy heart, exercise techniques

Part 3: A personal journey

You have a heart. You may have had heart surgery or heart issues. You are exercising, or you want to exercise. You have a story, this is mine in a nutshell.

It’s easy for me to say for you to go work out and give some trust to your cardiologist, your doctor and your exercise professional, right? What do I have to lose? I haven’t had a heart attack, a stint placed, a stroke or any type of angioplasty, right? Wrong. I have an intimate relationship with the heart and exercise, personally. Even more personal than my cancer and exercise article. I have had heart surgery. I had a CardioSEAL® implant device placed in my heart with surgery in May 2008.

  • This link gives more information about the CardioSEAL® device and the procedure.
  • Click on this next link for a video that shows an animated example of the procedure with a similar device.

Needless to say, my cardiac surgeon was fantastic. He had performed well over one hundred of these procedures during the previous eight years and all with a one hundred percent success rate.

My story begins one morning prior to a 3-day bicycle stage race: The Tucson Bicycle Classic. I was in the best shape of my life for this event; I was 34 years old. On that fateful morning, I had a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) verifiable stroke. It was late March in 2008.

That morning I went to the hospital and "symptoms resolved themselves". Other than the MRI identifying that I had a stroke, I was otherwise physically fine.

I was admitted to the hospital from the ER and released Friday afternoon. After speaking to four different doctors (the attending doctor, an ER doctor, a neurologist and the head neurologist,) I was told to take a baby aspirin a day and come back in three weeks for a follow up. They said that they did not know why I had a stroke but that they wanted me back in three weeks for a follow up.

Fortunately for me, at that time, I had my own business inside of a M.D. Internists office (I was a Clinical Exercise Specialist.) The good doctor looked over my documentation from the hospital and heatedly stated that the hospital f'd up and should have given me a transesophageal echocardiogram to detect if my heart had an atrial septic defect (ASD) or a patent foramen ovale (PFO). He stated that this should have been obvious to the hospital doctors, given my age and the circumstances. I will add that the transesophageal echocardiogram was one of the most unpleasant tests and experiences I’ve ever had the displeasure to receive. Having a camera the size of a small shotgun shell stuck down your esophagus is not my idea of a good time, regardless of the sedative. The graphics received by the camera though, are unparalleled by any other means at this time and it did clearly identify my heart issue. So I can say that it was worth it, but certainly not enjoyable.

The good doctor sent me to a specialist, a cardiologist, and one of the best in Tucson, to have this test done. Sure enough, it was identified that I had a PFO. I then made an appointment and met with the head surgeon that had done over 125 PFO surgeries, since 2001.

I had the CardioSEAL® Occluder placed via heart surgery in May 2008. I had the surgery Wednesday morning at 9am. I was released that night and went home at about 9pm. Who would have thought that you could have heart surgery in the morning and go home later that same day! Way to go medicine improvements! And, since at least 2001, this surgery was not open heart surgery, but instead the closure device was passed to the heart using a small tube (catheter) inserted in a vein located near the groin. See this video.

Everybody seems to ask what medicine I took or take. Every individual is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I emphatically recommend that you speak with your cardiologist, or a myriad of them, to discover which is the best choice for you. That said, I took Plavix® for 6 months plus a 325mg aspirin daily, post surgery. Click here for more information on Plavix®. After one year, the aspirin prescription was reduced to the baby 81mg, which I was glad for as I had experienced prolonged bruising and small cuts took a while to heal during that time.

Other than the initial stroke with right side paralysis (temporary, a few hours) and some dizziness, it all was just like hitting your head and getting dizzy for a spell. Two days post surgery, I did have one "ocular migraine" that I was checked out for and was told I was fine. The cardiac surgeons also told me that migraines and heart surgery tend to be recognized as related to each other, but they don't know why yet.

Post surgery, I experienced some depression and still do from time to time. I am more sentimental now overall. I have noticed some of my recallability for things (memory) is not always perfect but it's certainly not debilitating. Initially, I felt a huge decrease in my self-confidence and abilities. My heart surgeon had stated that I could get back to riding my bicycle within three days after the surgery, as the only thing that needed to heal was the insertion point on my upper thigh; which was small like the size of a pen tip. In spite of this, I did not exercise for about a month after the surgery. The depression post surgery was a surprise to me and a beast to manage. Follow this link for new science regarding depression post heart surgery.

Two months after heart surgery, I was exercising regularly and I decided to give the ticker a little test for self-confidence and to check my conditioning. Every July for several years I had gone on a 100 mile bike ride as a way of reminding myself how enjoyable life is and to use the time to reflect and contemplate. That July was different, however, since I was fairly fresh out from surgery. I decided to ride a bit for a warm up and then climb Mt. Lemmon from the base to Summerhaven (a community 25 miles up to the top of the mountain; a climb from approximately 2400ft to 8000ft). Ultimately, that day I rode a little over 80 miles. The ride was wonderful and my performance was fair physically and outstanding on the cardiac output side of things. Within months, I climbed Mt. Lemmon several more times during different training regiments with guidance from my trainer who was with Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). Ultimately, my best effort from Mile 0 to Mile 25 was a little over 2 hours time which I was very content with.

Post heart surgery, I have completed the Reach the Beach Century (5-5 ½ hr ride from Portland to the beach) and the Seattle to Portland (STP) 203 mile bike adventure (one-day ride, about 12hrs) in 2009. Additionally, I have been involved with activities like lifting weights, jogging, and several other types of heart pumping activities. I actually was involved in a major bike wreck in the STP where my helmet was split open and my left eyebrow near my temple was busted open and bleeding profusely. My left shoulder also sustained severe road rash and was immobile, to include road rash down the left side of my body and busted fingertips from flying like a tossed cat along the pavement. The accident had occurred at the 45 mile point of the ride, but due to my resilience I continued the following 153 miles without taking any pain medicines and after having been patched up by a medic/fireman. If there was ever a test for the CardioSEAL® Occluder, that day was it.

I continue to exercise to this day and I will ride century events as desired. Though I was certified to race through The United States Cycling Federation (USCF) through the end of 2009, I have decided to stop racing and ride only for recreation due to time considerations. I am working on a certification, however, as a USCF licensed coach. I have trained with a great coach with CTS, on and off, since 2006 for sanctioned USCF races that I competed in. Cycling has got to be one of the most competitive and incredibly challenging sports out there. I have had only positive experiences with both the USCF and CTS. I recommend both, and without incentive.

Furthermore, I have declared to my family and friends that I will enter the Ironman Triathlon Tempe Edition in the near future; Competitors slots sell out one year in advance and quickly, so as long as I make entry the Tempe Ironman is my next challenge.

Your heart issue is one that is personal. It can not get any more personal. Every heart patient that I have spoken with and that I have worked with has had a genuine concern for their health and an interest in doing something to make themselves more healthy. The first step is to understand your heart and how it functions. Then you must understand what you can do to enhance your body and your future.

Finally, knowing that others have gone before you, and that there are others weathering many of the same issues that you are, will no doubt aide in your self-confidence and allow you to have outside motivation. I highly encourage every heart patient to seek out the free programs and groups offered by the American Heart Association (AMA) to help with any questions that you have and to be support for you during your transition into a new more healthy you! You can make unbelievable health gains with consistency and dedication. Stay strong, stay focused, keep your chin up and most importantly keep progressing forward with your own belief in yourself! Find the positive influences that you like, make some fun goals for yourself, and act on them!

Thank you for your time and your attention. I wish you the utmost of health and an active lifestyle that makes you feel great!

© Dwayne Ivey


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