ventolin and heart rate

I am trying to tackle my worsening asthma by getting fitter, but because the exercise can often exacerbate symptoms, cause breathlessness or a coughing fit I take some precautionary ventolin in advance. This is usually effective (though not always). Anyway, even though my work is very sedentary, I had always thought of myself as not too unfit, although knew I wasn't the fittest around. However, when inputting my timings and exercise heart rate details into these online calculators in order to assess my progress, I have been shocked about how poor my figures are. It may simply be a combination of my persistent asthma and previous unfitness, and the fact that I am not very tall, so would cover distances less quickly than some in my age group…However, I am wondering whether the pre-exercise ventolin, or the seretide also, might affect my heart rate slightly, and that really I cannot compare myself therefore in 'normal' ban dings such as these online fitness calculators.

Anyone have any knowledge or experience in this? Its a bit dispiriting.

7 Replies

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  • Hi,

    I have the same issue. When I use Ventolin before exercise my starting heart rate according to the machines will be ~90 bpm. I know that my resting heart rate is ~70 bmp so I can of make allowances by just knocking 20 off when I input data. Also, I tend to spend a bit longer on the warm up than most people would since being hot and out of breath for me doesn't mean that I'm ready for exercise. I've found pilates a good way of improving fitness as it's controlled breathing.

  • Don't forget that the majority of people you're comparing yourself to are very fit and have been fit for a long time. Their resting heart rate is likely to be lower than most people. When I was at my fittest my resting heart rate was 48.

    I think what you need to do is compare your own data over a period of time. Just like you'd compare your own pf over a period of time and not compare it to everyone elses. Hopefully you'll see you heart rate figures improving and your asthma too. Exercise was really good for my asthma, particularly in my teens when it seemed to help lung capacity and function.

  • Thanks both. I actually have quite a low resting heart rate pre-ventolin (55-65) but have never checked it post-ventolin prior to exercise. Will start doing so in order to see if it can cast any light on the high heart rate in exercise. The Pilates is a great idea and I am going to find a local class, certainly better all round than this solo treadmill and coughing business. And Lou, thanks for your example and encouragement. Do you still exercise and see improvement in your asthma?

  • Yeah, I'm still very active and run whenever I can, competitively too, although have periods that I can't run etc, but then the asthma is hard enough work and sometimes feels like running a marathon or more. It definitely helps with the asthma still, my best pf(570) is significantly higher than predicted (438) and the times that my asthma plays up and I have to work hard at the breathing I think having strong breathing muscles helps and being fit and able to sustain the hard work for long periods. My base heart rate is a little higher than it used to be, maybe because of the SABAs, LABAs, Theophylline etc

    How high does your heart rate go? Is it dangerously high and have you talked to your gp about it?

    Are you building up your exercise regime gradually? Is it worth slowing down your treadmill or doing something a bit more gentle to start with?

    Have you talked to your asthma team about increasing how active you are? and have you got your asthma as controlled as it can be/are there more meds to try to improve control? Being active generally and at work is something I've discussed a lot with my team.

    How many puffs do you take pre exercise? Maybe you need more, although again you should talk to your nurse/team about his and it prob won't help with the heart rate.

  • Sorry to bombard you with questions, but when there are periods when you can't run, as you say, are there any identifiable triggers or reasons? I am a bit rough at the moment, but it is not clear why, so I am not sure if I push through this, or take it more easy.

    I wish I did have an asthma 'team' to refer to… it does sound as if I am much less active than you, so maybe needs less discussion per se with the medics, although I really cannot see how i would have that conversation with anyone. Really, I felt I was such a nuisance last year about it all, when it all flared up. And I can't imagine trying to discuss an exercise regime with them. :(

    Will take it slowly and easy. Am no spring chicken after all.

  • Don't worry about the questions. I'd really like to learn as much as I can about exercising with asthma and how others manage with it. I've not worked out when it's ok to push it and not, it's frequently a case of trial and error and there don't seem to be any straight answers.

    I get chest infections fairly often, so this triggers my asthma and means I cannot run (or even walk), so I have an obvious trigger there and this is my worst one. Other triggers are stress, irritants like smoke and allergens/pollen, but sometimes I have no obvious trigger for symptoms and it's just random twitchyness. So outside of the chest infections my asthma seems a bit random and most of the time my pf would be above 80% with several dips in the day below that, so I have significant good bits in which to run. Whenever I run I would make sure my pf is 80% or more, if it's below that then I'll struggle. It sounds like you're constantly not too good and don't have an obvious trigger identified, so it might be worth going to GP and seeing if they can help you get better control and help identify triggers. Have you had a look through the A to Z list of triggers in the knowledge section at the top? Don't know if that'd help. It can really feel like you're pestering GPs/nurses etc when you're poorly controlled or trying to stay on top of symptoms but you've not got much choice if you want to be well, and you have a right to be as well/healthy as possible so don't let them make you feel bad. The aim of good asthma care is for people to lead lives with minimal symptoms and be able to lead an active lifestyle. You're not being a nuisance, you're just trying to be healthy.

  • Thanks Lou. Sorry about the delay in reply, my operating system crashed and has taken a while to get restored. (computer operating system not mine! :))

    Nevertheless still worth replying late, partly to pass onto anyone reading the advice of the asthma UK nurse who I consulted with about how many puffs of ventolin I should be taking prior to exercise (vis-a-vis Rachel's question above), which was that 2 puffs were ample to open the airways for exercise. Since posting I have now changed my whole regime to yoga and Pilates, currently only once a week each but going to increase that, plus treadmill I am going for distance and not pace so am walking several miles instead of trying to do them faster. These changes mean I am not approaching exercise with so much trepidation as before. If clement I do the walking outside; the temperature and dampness, even if somewhat mild for this time of year, does make me cough but not as scarily as fast exercise.

    As regards my triggers, during my pre-menopause lifetime of previously mild/ well-controlled asthma they have been pet dander, damp, fog, but last year's blood tests showed allergies to all the other usuals that I didn't know about: pollen, dust mites moulds etc, plus I am now reacting to new triggers such as bleaches, candles, wind. However, like you Lou, there appears to be some very non-specific, or not clear triggers given random nature of reactivity, and so my consultant is now laying a lot of blame at the door of stomach acid, and post nasal drip (nose completely blocked at night); on his advice, am tackling the silent reflux/ acid with some aggression and he says it may improve things over time as no quick fix.

    The ENT doctor last year told me I was now on an allergic march and would need to keep finding out what my developing allergies are. I am considering taking wider tests for other allergies but am loathe to do so as fear it may make me over-vigilant, paranoid and over-cautious.

    Ever hopeful, I am hoping that once the worst of the menopause is over, things may calm down, although research would seem to suggest that diminishing levels of progesterone and oestrogen are at the bottom of menopausal onset/ worsening, so part of me is also having to work to accept this as permanent condition.

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