Arrhythmia Alliance
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Ablation in 10 days...an old athlete struggling

Ablation in 10 days...an old athlete struggling

I am a 60 year old female who has always been very active, teaching fitness classes and backpacking. I took up mountain biking a few months ago and really pushed my heart (redlining!) and developed AFib or SVT. I had always been proud of my low resting heart rate, now I know that it may have been more of a curse than a blessing. I am scheduled for ablation in 10 days and my EP is concerned about the difficulty in finding the misbehaving areas to ablate. I am actually less worried about the ablation than I am about the very real potential for a need to change my lifestyle. I know that sounds so petty and shallow but I guess much of my identity has been as a very fit person. I am reading more and more about reversible changes in the heart with training and then DEtraining. Sounds like such a simple choice, right? Just decrease the exercise intensity and hope for the best. I am reaching out in this forum because I think there are other "exercise addicted" people out there with similar feelings. I need some mutual hand holding as I make my way through the ablation and how my life is going to change now. Thanks in advance!

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I was involved in several forms of exercise, especially squash where I'd push physical boundaries. Eight years ago I went into AF playing tennis and this triggered many life changes. For the next several years I experienced 2-3 episodes a year, often during strenuous exercise, or accompanying a digestive problem, or randomly in the middle of the night. I became phobic of these episodes and gradually stopped all vigorous exercise. I started taking magnesium and fish oil supplements and, sensing a link between digestion and AF, became paranoid about foods that might lead to indigestion. It felt like my world was diminishing rapidly.

At one point I said to myself: enough is enough - and went on daily low-dose flecenaide - reasoning that, since AF begets AF, a major goal should be to prevent further episodes at all costs. I took up other hobbies - intensive music, fiction writing. I even took up south american dance! :) out of my usual element.

After being AF free for a year, I started to reintroduce competitive sports, but not in the way I used to - I'm no longer obsessed with winning, and I also take a quarter beta blocker before a game of squash or tennis, to reduce any possibility of going onto AF. I cycle daily and do mild weights (no need for beta blocker for that). I feel great, as though I am reversing the AF progression and increasing cardiac health. Ablation might also be in my future - no rush for now.

Everyone progresses differently, but those who develop AF out of over-exertion, with no other cardiac problems or risk factors, seem to be in a distinct category (see afibbers.org). You have a great chance of knocking this on the head. Keep us updated on your ablation.

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Thanks for some moral support! It's a funny thing...you think your identity isn't tied so closely to a certain thing (like excelling in athletics) and then you discover that a whole lot of your ego hung on that one peg. What a life lesson! Your journey of adaptation and resilience is hope-filled and I appreciate you sharing it with me.

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Why are you having ablation so soon after diagnosis. What are your symptoms. I have just been diagnosed with svt and have had a fast heart rate that is noticeable only a couple of times in the last year. I am fully aware not to push myself too hard but it is difficult not to. Good luck with the ablation.

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After wearing an event monitor for three weeks, it was apparent that I have a very irritated heart that was getting progressively worse. I am relatively young with a healthy heart, and although I respond to meds, the drugs are powerful chemicals with bad side effects and typically only work for a little while. SVT is a strong predictor for A Fib and is extremely uncomfortable, causing loss of sleep and anxiety. It feels almost worse than Afib because of the re-entry beats...like there is an angry squirrel in my chest. Here in the US, ablation has moved up to the first line of defense against Afib. I don't want to just wait until it's here, permanent, and harder to resolve. I intend to significantly modify my exercise afterwards...I now am positive that I pushed my heart way too hard in the months prior to the onset.

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