Heart attack and exercising - British Heart Fou...

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Heart attack and exercising


I am new here, having just had both a heart attack and cardiac arrest. I am 66 and I run - a lot, six days a week and about 100k a week. I am still in hospital, having had a stent and a defibrillator fitted. I will be coming home very soon.

What I would like to know is how soon can I start running, and how much should I exercise? I feel very fit - as I always do.

29 Replies

That's the problem, you probably do feel fighting fit if you are used to all that regular exorcise.

However, you do now have to realise the seriousness of what your heart has just been through.

As you already know, the heart is a muscle. When muscle have been damaged, we have to let them heal first before we overload them again.

Your cardiac team should inform you about cardiac rehab.

Depends on your area, availability & personal health on when you will be able to partisipate.

Don't you worry, if you do as you are advised by the medical field. And as you were so fit before. You will be back to a 100 a week before you know it.

If you rush things though, you'll burn that muscle out. Then it will put you back more than you could know.

While you are waiting for the go ahead, do some walking, little but often. Making sure you elevate and rest legs in between walks.

No lifting anything more than the weight of a mug of tea until your Gp says otherwise.

Best of luck & be patient, you'll soon be back to normal 😊 Jo

Ps, that is the beauty of cardiac rehab. They advice and inform you of your personal capabilities.

They give you conffidance and put your mind at ease on the dos and don't's.

Try to get as much info from the cardiac staff before you go home. On how your family and friends can help your recovery. You'll be able to do more for yourself than you and your family may think.

Be patient with family and friends. This has all been just as scary and confusing for them as it has been for you.

You are all just learning about what you have just been through. So my advice, take one step at a time 😊

Hope you get to go home soon😑

Thank you Sina-6491

Thank you for your lovely considered response. They have said that I will see the rehab team, which I know will be very useful.

I am looking forward to getting back to exercising. I do Parkruns on Saturdays, and yesterday missed my first one in ages. I have been getting so many supportive messages on Facebook from the Parkrun community. Runners are great!

And thanks for what you said about family and friends. This has been quite a lot for them to take in - as it has been for me. We are all coming to terms with it. It does have more of an emotional affect than I expected.

I am going to have the defibrillator fitted tomorrow, and they told me that I won't be able to lift my arms above my shoulders for a while.

Yes so like I said, be a little patient & you'll be back with your running friends for those lovely sunny runs real soon.

I hope you are pottering around the ward little and often, give yourself a good head start. Hugs Jo 😊

Yes, I am having little walks around the ward, but until I have the defibrillator fitted I can't stay unattached from my monitor for long.

Sunny runs would be great. My runs have been very wet and muddy recently!

Oh I didn't realise you were still on the monitor.

Chin up, wont be long 😊

Well I dont know what Hostpitals you go to No mention in Southmead Hosp Bristol about rehab or any advise what advice I got from a guy looking over me in the bed was dont forget to take your tablets who was he Santa Claus havent a clue

I will second the rehab classes, I’ve just had my last one and am going to miss going very knowledgable people and it’s good to talk to others in a similar situation.

NineToTheSky in reply to Mjd7568

Yes, I'm looking forward to getting help and information. I really know so little about what has happened to me.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it seems that excessive runners, such as marathon runners, often develop heart problems due to too much strain on the heart which damages it. It then turns to scar tissue and can't "pump" as it should, and so has to work harder.

I'm sure you'll be able to get back to some running but perhaps it's time to consider cutting back a bit.

Until you get into rehab you should stick with just walking. You'll need to take it very easy until you get into rehab, where they'll advise on what you should and shouldn't be doing. After rehab you're talking months of recovery rather than weeks and that's where you gradually build up your recovery. Try not to rush things as it usually means a relapse.. a lot of us have fallen into that trap.

Sorry if that's not what you want to hear but I'm afraid that's the reality after a what you've been through... you should be able to run but at a slower pace and/or level.

It all seems a bit bleak at the moment but it does get easier, I promise. You'll look back in a years time and realise just how far you've come.

NineToTheSky in reply to Marc68

Thanks for the advice. After what I have been through, I definitely don't want to put myself at risk, and put my family through any more stress. It has been tough on them,

Heavy duty running has become a habit, and it won't be a bad thing to readjust what I do if necessary. I certainly look forward to getting the advice on what I should do, because at the moment, I really don't know what is sensible.

No problem mate. What is sensible at the moment is take it easy until you get into rehab. They'll assess you and give you a heart rate you should be working at during rehab. You may feel fit and ready to take on the world again (I did also) but you need to take it easy for a while to let your heart recover. Any excess strain on it now won't do you any favours, either in the short or the long term.

Once rehab is finished you then start to build up your fitness and increase your exercise rate, slowly.

This post might give you some info (as well as a linked post) but please be aware that we're all different and what applies to one might not apply to another. You need to listen to your body and if it doesn't feel right, or you're ill (cold, flu etc) then don't exercise until you're better. I'm afraid there's no rushing things at this stage.


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NineToTheSky in reply to Hidden

Thanks for your reply but I think we are on the other side of the fence to each other here. I am happy to stick with conventional medicine and the advice of NHS practitioners.

IanCD in reply to Hidden

Hi Helen

I think we speak the same language here, as I too believe our doctors (i the main) are only knowledgeable to a degree, and it's controlled/fed from big pharma - who we know, bury much negative information, and they often play on the positives - having vested interests to do so!

So I hear you loud and clear, and believe more in alternative solutions, BUT not to completely disregard conventional medicine as it does saves lives (though equally many die too because of it). We just need to have an active participation role, and get clued up.

Thanks for your input :-)

Thank you for the information. My husband had a massive heart attack & cardiac arrest 20 years ago. His heart was badly damaged & was inoperable, no by pass for him so his condition was treated by medication. This medication has kept him alive all this time, unless you are medically trained you cannot be sure what it right or what is wrong. No, the medication didn't stop your father having another heart attack but there could be other factors involved. My husband has never had another heart attack but we accept as he is getting older health risks are inevitable, his heart treatment is used worldwide! I hope your father is feelifeeling better soon.

Hi Lezzers,

I had heart attack last year in July when I was about a 1 month away from my 37th Birthday and when my Son was just 10months old. I have lived pretty decent life, no alchohol, no smoking, vegterian, mostly had homemade food, and was active. I had high cholestrol but Dr never thought I was at risk. Since my heart attack I am always worried about my son and wife.

Good to hear that your husband had heard attack and cardiac arrest 20 years ago and he is still alive, It gave me a hope.

Does your husband have stents in artries? How many? And what medication did he have since then? Was there any side effect of medicine? Looks like may be getting side effects of Asprin?

Hi survivor, my husband was 42 when he had the heart attack, not many years older than you, so totally understand your worries. Bear in mind this was 20 years ago & there has been so many advances in heart medication/treatment since then. Kevin didn' any stents & unfortunately he couldn't have a by-pass as his main aorta was blocked & still is, he also had quite a bit of damage to the heart. However, he has managed to live an almost normal life even going to the gym with a programme geared up to his condition. Fast forward 15 years to 5 years ago he was diagnosed with heart failure. Told he was high risk of sudden death & fitted with an ICD. He's adjusted his lifestyle as HF does take it's toll but he is far from being an invalid. He does take a fair amount of medication which is currently being adjusted. It did take Kevin a couple of years to get used to everything, he thought his life was over!! so give yourself time. Obviously everyone is different, but I always think Kevin's story is worth telling, as the re-hab nurse' told him "there is still life after an heart attack". Hope this helps you feel more settled, Kevin is 63 this year! Do feel free to contact me anytime you feel overwhelmed/need to vent or just want to chat bout things x

Many thanks for for the quick response. Insipirational, kudos to your husband for making such a insipirational recovery and kudos to you for supporting him in this journey which I guess wouldn't have been as good without your support!

Ha, I think Kevin would consider my support to be just another word for nagging!! I've tried wrapping him in cotton wool but he won't have it...i guess he's right!!!

Hello NineToTheSky and welcome to the forum, you certainly joined a very helpful community.

Another fir and active Marathon Runner with heart problem, hummm, when you have a moment or two have a read below, I am sure it will be helpful.


I wish you a speedy recovery and hope all goes well for you. Do keep us posted as you make progress.

Hi, How are things going. I was a keen runner before my HA two weeks ago and would be interested to know how things are progressing and what they have said about your returning to running

As far as my heart goes, I am fit enough to exercise quite hard for about ninety minutes a day, which I do at the gym - resistance and cardio work: rowing, cycling and on the elliptical. I am not running as much as I would like to, but only because one of my legs hurts quite a lot. It has been said that when they put a stent in through my groin they damaged a muscle in my leg. I should be getting physio soon which I hope will help. But I can certainly exercise nearly as much as I used. So there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Well Done - yours is an inspiring story, I am amazed at the level of your fitness considering your heart problem. I am thinking Maybe a lot of it is in the mind when it comes to getting well again

Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I agree - a lot of it is in the mind, in several ways. First of all I was frightened to exercise - I thought that my heart wouldn't be able to cope. That is where the cardiac rehab came in. It was really excellent and boosted my confidence hugely.

Don't forget, I was already very fit, and used to doing a lot of exercise, so it just seemed natural to continue. It can be quite difficult for a lot of people to adjust to pushing yourself to the limits of your capabilities. When I started exercising strongly I pushed myself to see how much my body could endure, and it was then that I discovered that your body will do pretty much anything you tell it to - and that is the trigger: your mind is in control.

There are days when I ask myself 'why am I doing this - it's hard work'. But when I do it I get 'into the zone' and the endorphins kick in and I feel fantastic. I keep on remembering the cardiologist telling me that if I hadn't been so fit, I wouldn't be here now. That's a great incentive to keep moving!

One of the things that have kept me going is the weekly parkrun (parkrun.org.uk). It's a 5k run/walk/jog (you choose your pace), every Saturday at 9:00am. There are hundreds throughout the country - and the world. The community spirit is fantastic. I highly recommend it to everyone.

This seems quite an old post now (but just appeared when opening app)- but just thought I would add. I’m nearly two years post HA and 5 stents. I was 42 and exercised quite a lot ( a couple of half marathons in recent years, regular football and gym goer). On the negative side, I smoked aged from 18-30 (variable amounts) and also have been working silly hours in a stressful job for several years believing I was invincible. It’s been and continues to be a journey of confidence building and persistence but I am pretty fit again - I do 1 hour workouts on alternate days (indoor running 2 or 3 miles- at a steady 7.30mins ish a mile and about 10 miles on bike with some dumbbells thrown in), on rest days I do a bit of yoga stretching and press ups. I completely empathise with survivor180717 having a young child myself; it’s hard on so many levels. I get the occasional tired

moment, which scares me - but it’s not usually after my exercise sessions!, it’s usually a day after ; perhaps after taking my daughter to the park or something - but not actually doing much prolonged exertion (like today)- so there is definitely something in the warming up and warming down properly when it comes to post HA exercise. I will continue to keep exercising (l love the buzz still!), but I accept the psychological battle will always be there to some degree by I am definitely in a better place now than a year ago. It is also great to hear others stories - the posts about how others are moving forward are a real inspiration as I hope to be. I am looking forward to posting my two year follow up to my original post where so many reached out and offered support in those first few months post op. Thanks all and good health.

I had open heart surgery that left me in pain for six years after. I still have pain but it is changing all the time. I was able to stop all of my meds 6 months ago and have been practicing Qigong for about 3 years, I have more energy for sure.

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