Suddenly scared

I've been running since early March, so I'm still a beginner. After some knee troubles when I thought I had conquered the world after graduation, I've realised the wisdom of "max 10% increase per week". I'm now up to 7.4 km this week, and feeling good.

It's often said (and I have said it several times) that it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster. Well, in my quest for additional milage, I have slowed down the running pace, and you know what? It *does* get easier. The 7.4 km in 50 minutes was far easier than the 5km in 30 minutes I did for my graduation.

Anyway... I signed up for the local gym two weeks ago and had a short health check (height, weight, blood pressure, body fat percentage). Turns out I have a high blood pressure (165/70) but a tremendously low pulse (38 bpm). In fact, the chap at the gym had never before seen a pulse that slow. It is apparently a resting pulse normally associated with Olympic athletes, and trust me, that does NOT describe me.

So today I had an appointment with my GP to have the figures checked. He checked and confirmed. Listened to my heart which sounds normal. Booked me in for an ECG and a blood test tomorrow, and a repeat appointment with him next week to discuss the results.

Of course I went to google "high blood pressure low pulse" as soon as I got home. There should be a law against having medical information available on the internet. All it does it worry people! I've been running happily for nearly 4 months. I've been out of breath, gasping for air and have felt my heart racing when I've been trying to beat a personal best. That's part and parcel of running, and I find that once I've done my stretches and had a shower, I feel great for having pushed myself and knowing that I'm (ever so slowly) getting stronger and fitter. It's wonderful!

But right now all I can think about is the words from Google. Heart attacks. Fainting. Heart troubles. Dangerous.

And you know what? I *enjoy* my running. I was enjoying it on my last run Monday. I was looking forward to getting out in the lunch break today. But instead of looking forward, I am suddenly worried about what happens if I collapse on the road side. Or if I faint on a quiet part of the tow path where there might not be anyone else going for a long while. Of course it's stupid. I've been running there for months, without any problems. Nothing has changed since my last run, other than I've had a blood pressure test and a stethoscope put on my chest. And that little bit of googling.

A little information is dangerous when given to ignorant people. And I'm a medical ignoramus, and I'm scaring myself.



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19 Replies

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  • I can imagine how you must be feeling and it is natural for you to be feeling scared and very cautious about taking a run whilst waiting to see if you have a medical problem. You have probably been helping yourself by keeping fit and active and I think, if I were you, I would ease back a little for the time being. Perhaps just do a very slow 5k x 3 or 4 times per week and don't think of increasing until you have had your tests and seen the specialist but do check with your doctor first.

    It is good that you have seen the doctor now and you can take the best possible advice on going forwards.

    Wishing you all the best x

  • Whilst I agree with folk that say the internet opens up a whole new world to every single person that has access to it, in my own personal opinion, it can also give us far too much knowledge and knowledge can sometimes be dangerous to our mental well-being.

    I have an illness and I, like you wanted to know more and really and truly wished that I hadn't searched on the www as I only read two paragraphs of the information and it was scaring me big time. It took some doing but I shut down the page and resolved never again to try and found out more information - if I wanted to know anything then I would go back to either my doctor or the consultant and ask the question. There are times when the information given on the web is, as far as I am concerned, definitely "worst ever, ever scenario" so personally, I would forget what you've read and wait and speak, in depth, with your doctor next week. If necessary, ring your surgery and book a double appointment so that you can speak with him without feeling time pressured. I am certain that if there had been anything or any reason at all for you NOT to run, then he would have said so (providing of course that you told him you were running, etc) but this is just my opinion so if you are truly worried about going out and running, which you obviously are and I think the majority of us would be, then ring your doctor's surgery and ask if the doctor can ring you and you can ask him should you or should you not run.

    I do tend to think that once something is "fixed" in our brain our thinking errs on the 'what can happen' view but I do think that for all runners, low or high blood pressure, fat or thin, or any other combos that you can think of, collapsing or fainting or generally feeling really unwell whilst running can (and I would think does) happen but I do think that the 'happens' are very few and far between.

    Whilst I can only speak for myself and my disease, since starting C25K back in April, I haven't had one attack either when running or when not and considering that in the week prior to starting, I had 4 attacks in 7 days (one of which lasted a whole day) I am sure that you can imagine how tentative and wary I was of going out and actually running. My doctor told me to be careful and stick to well populated routes "just in case" at the beginning but having checked with her since graduating all she has said is keep a note on your person of what you suffer from so if the worst case does happen, knowledge is there for people to act on. It would seem that running is good for me and my doctor and consultant have even mentioned that if things stay as they are for a further 6 months, then they may reduce my daily medication! This could mean that I won't rattle as I run round - ROFLMAO :D :D

    Speak to your doctor and let him tell you whether your should or should not run - driving yourself 'mad' with all the thoughts that are in your head is definitely not good for you.

    I am certain that everything will be A OK but do let us know firstly, if you can carry on running until next week and secondly, the results of the tests.

  • Want2run2 said:

    > "but having checked with her since graduating all she has said is keep a note on your person of what you suffer from so if the worst case does happen, knowledge is there for people to act on. "

    Have you heard of ICE tags? Maybe these could be useful to you. These are plastic tags which you attach to you, for example tie to your shoe lace, with information that you wish to share ICE (In Case of Emergency). You can get medical info printed on the tags as well as contact phone numbers. I have one on my running shoe lace. Check the link below.

    This is mine on my road shoes:

  • Many thanks - wonder why my doc didn't mention these? Off to find out more - but think I will be purchasing at one very shortly. Very kind of you to take the trouble to post this, so thank you again.

  • Wise words and sensible advice want2run2.

  • Oh sorry to hear your dilemma Tomas, the web is a wonderful thing but can also be quite scary, as you say. Maybe you could give your gp a call and just check that its ok to run while you await your tests, then maybe just gentle 5k's until you know more. Everyones body is different and these things don't always mean that something is wrong,it could be just normal for you. Take care and happy running x

  • I agree. Why not just check with the doctor whether you are okay to run in the meantime and then just wait to hear he outcome of the tests. The Internet makes hypochondriacs of us all!

    Good luck.

  • Hope the tests will allay your fears, it's only natural to get scared from that kind of info, plus a dose of the infamous Dr Google.

    Regarding your bp, have you had it confirmed that it's consistently high? My hubby got a high reading at the Drs years ago and was advised to monitor regularly at home where it was no where near as high. There is a thing called 'white coat syndrome', it may well apply in gyms too, where you get nervous from the anticipation of the test and that is enough to raise it. If it is consistently high there are medications and dietary changes which can help lower it, and regular exercise is something you are already doing for yourself so that is very good.

    The low pulse might just be you, there's certainly been at least one poster on here before who had a similarly low one with no ill effects.

    Take care and keep us updated as to how you get on. :-)

  • I can very much confirm notbad's mention of "white coat syndrome". I had my blood pressure monitored at the end of 2013 and it was high (140 / 90) which, coupled with high cholesterol, is not an ideal situation.

    I challenged the readings as historically I've had low blood pressure. I told the doctor then that I have never been comfortable in a medical practice and that I wanted a second opinion. Her back stiffened, she commented archly "Oh, white coat syndrome, is it?" but did agree to put me on a 24 hour monitor.

    The result of the 24 hour monitor: 125 / 80.

  • It must be worrying for you. If you are really concernned then you could always take things easy until you get the results back. Wishing you all the best and only good news to come. Good luck.

  • Thank you very much for the feedback. Much appreciated.

    As it happens, I did go out in my lunch break for a run (same distance and same gentle speed as on Monday... telling myself not to be silly), and nothing untowards happened.

    I'll take the advice from here though, and will call the surgery this afternoon just to confirm it's okay to run. I did mention at the consultation that I was running 3 times weekly, but I didn't specifically ask if there was a reason to stop (and the doctor didn't suggest it). Better safe than sorry.

    The ICE tags sounds like a good idea. I had considered slipping a note with my name and address, as well as Her Ladyship's name and mobile number as emergency contact into the armband with my phone. But a tag on the shoe laces sounds better. So thank you for that as well.

  • How very frightening for you Tomas. However, don't let it scare you too much: think of how much you have already increased your fitness. I found that running had helped lower my blood pressure. As others have adviced, perhaps cut back on the running but supplement it with something less strenuous like swimming to help maintain and develop your fitness?

  • Poor you Tomas. In my non-running life I'm a doctor, and I've always said that Dr Google is the worst and the best doctor in the world. The truth is that anyone can post medical stuff on the internet, it's not always from verified sources, and some of it is complete rubbish. And without background knowledge, it's harder to sort out the useful information from the bunkum, and to get things in perspective as everything sounds dramatic and life threatening.

    Try not to worry too much - chances are that if there was a serious problem you would have had more symptoms by now. The white coat hypertension thing is pretty common, and a couple of one off readings don't tell you very much. Your GP will probably want to do something called a 24 hour monitor, where your BP gets measured every hour for 24 hours, which gives a much more accurate reading as it's harder to be stressed when you're asleep! The ECG will rule out a lot of rare but serious things immediately, and the blood tests will check a few other high blood pressure related things such as kidney function and cholesterol levels. Worse case scenario - your tests show that your blood pressure is still high, and you need to take some medication for it. A lot of people (including myself) do, and it generally doesnt stop you running or doing anything else in your life (unless you were thinking of taking up bungee jumping, which may be a no no)!

    Just take it easy, enjoy your running and chat to your GP if you need to - thats what they're there for.

  • Thank you very much doc, that is very reassuring. The ECG did indeed rule a lot of stuff out, which has made me far more relaxed about the whole situation. So now I wait patiently, but not nearly as anxiously, to hear the blood results next week.

  • Wow, a real life doc on the forum ! :-) xxx

  • Yes poppypug - usually my patients are of the small and cuddly variety though!

  • Ah doc, I think I may come under that category ( I wish :-) ) xxx

  • Hi there!

    I have today started with BP meds as I have been diagnosed with high BP following the 24 hr monitor. I didn't know I had it until a recent arthroscopy, where the staff kept asking if I was on medication because it was soaring around the 200 mark. On the 24hr test I averaged at 149 over 80 (might have been slightly higher on the second figure - can't quite recall), hence starting the meds. I have no lifestyle changes I should make and no apparent family history. My pulse is also low (the one thing the hospital kept praising!). The GP knows I run and is supportive of continuing. Hopefully either this med or another will sort it out for me soon, and who knows, if I keep up the running, I may even affect my BP positively. I'm not worried at all. I know why taking the meds is in my interest medically and I'm a mere youth (at 53 apparently). If your GP is okay about it then why panic? Enjoy life!

  • Wise words indeed! No need to panic. It was very encouraging to read that I'm not the only one in this boat, and that you seem to handling it very well. Thank you - this helps.

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