Exercise With Heart Stent: Left To Figure It Out On My Own!

Athletes Have To Figure It Out!

Vascular Disease Happens!

heart stent: figuring out your sport on your own.

Here I am, figuring it out, five years ago, but not on my own. I’m with our dog, Willbe. He’s a good listener, and very supportive. Otherwise, it was my problem. Clip from video ‘The Creation of FitOldDog,’ linked to image.

Heart Disease Is A Form Of Vascular Disease!

A heart stent is like an aortic stent, only different, mechanically!

“I had a heart attack, got a stent and continue to exercise. no one expected it, including my doctor. I don’t want to take drugs unnecessarily. I find I am left to figure it out on my own. so business as usual plus 8 pills a day. Your blog was one of the first I found and as a 4 time Ironman Canada finisher I have enjoyed reading it. Thank you.” One response to my recent survey of FitOldDog’s newsletter subscribers.

Heart stent? FitOldDog and Pauline, with AAA graft and AAA stent graft, before the 2015 Eagleman Half Ironman race.

FitOldDog and Pauline, with AAA graft and AAA stent graft, before the 2015 Eagleman Half Ironman race.

We are in the same boat, this person and I. We are both Ironman-distance triathletes, with vascular disease, who want to continue exercising.

This survey respondent has a heart stent. I have an aortic stent. Just different regions of the vascular tree – not really a tree, just one big circle. Yes! One circle, that almost touches at the heart, like a lightly pinched, möbius strip.

When I read this message in Survey Monkey

I had overwhelming feelings.

Memories of sadness, loneliness, fear and hope.

Overnight, I went from Ironman Scientist to Aortic Cripple. That’s what I thought, anyway!

I was wrong! My life was about to change for the better.

How did my life change?

  • Appreciate each day more.
  • Greater involvement with family.
  • Met Pauline, a fellow AAA survivor and triathlete!
  • Less attached to the successes and failures of the day; I was just grateful for each day.
  • Member of a wonderful community of people living life to the full, in spite of aortic disease.
  • Left a 40-year career in science, to become an entrepreneur – a critical aspect of healthy aging, is constant learning, physically, emotionally and intellectually!

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Heart Stent? this is tougher - Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

If you need inspiration, and you don’t think that you can do it, read this book and think again.

How did I adapt my training to my abdominal aortic aneurysm stent graft? This was the fun part, for me as a researcher!

  • Studied my condition, as a scientist with a background in many subjects, including fluid dynamics.
  • Visited Cook Medical and met the people who made my stent, and learned even more.
  • Read the blogs of other athletes interested in this issue, such as Larry’s Athlete’s Heart Blog and Benjamin’s Heartosaurus.
  • Read books, about other people’s inspiring journeys, such as It’s Not About The BikeThe Diving Bell And The Butterfly, and Barefoot in November.
  • Substituted the elliptical trainer for the rowing machine (reduce hip flexion) – didn’t want to yank on my femoral artery, for obvious reasons – I did do that in a bike wreck, in 2013, and was back in surgery!
  • Bike adapted for less hip flexion.
  • Reduced percussive impacts to my lower aorta, by standing on rough terrain on the bike.
  • Reduced the depth of ‘squats’ in the gym and during flip turns in the pool.
  • Increased my focus on low impact running – good for my stent, and good for my knees.
  • Made understanding my stent part of my training.
  • Developed a benefit-risk assessment approach to the whole process of returning to a sport with a serious health challenge – still tempted to make it into an App!
heart stent? Inspiring book by Benjamin Carey of Heartosaurus. From : http://goo.gl/lePdB

Highly recommended reading, for inspiration. The NYC marathon, one year after open heart surgery!

What should 4 x Ironman Canada do? I thought, “What would I do with a heart stent?”

  • Complete FitOldDog’s sport benefit-risk analysis, or equivalent, to ensure that you consider all critical variables.
  • Fully understand the dynamics of your heart stent. The heart is an unusual part of the vascular Möbius strip, in that it receives fresh, highly oxygenated, blood during diastole (heart relaxation phase). Very different to the distal aorta. Study, learn, understand, question, don’t trust doctors, challenge them, kindly, gratefully.
  • Talk to people, in a similar situation, if you can find them – it’s not easy.
  • Adapt your training, to your new physiology, as you learn, while living your journey.
  • Consider modifying your diet, to halt, and even reverse, any heart disease.
  • Stay off of statins (muscle toxins, and worse) and beta-blockers (horrible for athletes – OK during cardiac crisis, period). You really can’t trust most cardiologists, on this one. [Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I don’t give medical advice to human animals, so it’s your call.]
  • Sign up for a race I’m doing, when you’re ready. Let me buy you a beer afterwards (once I sort out my run!!!!!).
  • Have fun, life is brief.

This was a trip down memory lane!

Thanks so much, my friend and fellow athlete. I’m six years out, and still training. The fact that you are still exercising, encourages all of us!



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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.