View Full Version : Heart Problems

08-23-2004, 16:10
Maybe someone could help out here. Unfortunally I just found out the hard way that i have a heart condition. While working last week i had chest pains and went to the hospital and the next moring i was getting 3 stents put in my right main artery. Having now told all of you this. Has anyone else had this news given to them and any advice on my now doing hikes alone. Going out on hikes alone is really my main concern. And maybe how long after having surgery was it before you might have went on a backpacking trip. Any help with this problem. I would be thankfull to here from you.

08-23-2004, 17:08
Of course you will want to check with your doctor first, but there is ample evidence that many people recover quite well after a minor heart attack, angioplasty and beta blockers. I was playing soccer with my 40-year old buddy when he had a heart attack on the field. He was back out there, playing competitive-level soccer better than ever less than a month later. The medicine combined with increased oxygenation can help a lot.

You will want to try to determine the likely cause of your condition, heriditary, congenital or environmental (read fatty foods), along with the condition of your other arteries. Your doctor will be able to give you a sense of what you should be able to do, but I'd be surprised if he told you that you always had to be around other people, just in case. Best of luck.

08-23-2004, 17:13
First, most of these are questions for your cardiologist. We don't know if you suffered myocardial damage from the angina, or if this was a lucky spasm that allowed you to get stents prior to a sudden death event.

I expect that it is not very important (except to those who love you) whether you hike alone or with a crowd. If you suffer a sudden death or severe arrhythmia, you are not likely to benefit from CPR if you are more than 15 minutes away from a trailhead - and not particularly likely even if you were at the trailhead.

Your job is to find out how your exercise tolerance is via your cardiologist, long before you put on your backpack.

The usual question from folks in your position is whether/when/if you can resume sex. That is usually best enjoyed with at least one companion.


08-23-2004, 17:17
I wouldn't push too far too fast..but i'm sure with good care and reasonable expectations you will be able to hike in the near future...there have been many folks hike even after by-pass surgery.

08-23-2004, 19:55
I am a heart patient.

First outdoor activity I found out I could do, after walking around the neighborhood, I went with a friend and the two of us paddled a rented canoe a little upstream, up to the point I "felt" a little fatigue, then we rode the current downstream.

Oh boy, I got into grade II and III river kayaking.

Next, I found out I could walk a lot more, if I walked "solo" because there was no social-pressure to keep up. I learned to "stroll".

Then, I was ready to find out about CytoMax. This is an exercize drink that prevents lactic acid build-up and also increased "oxygen uptake". Do not do this first.

Now, I hike anywhere I want to, however I do not hike at all in warmer temperatures.

I found out I "like" cooler temperatures, or even cold temperatures, if properly dressed. But, hot weather is just too much.

I'd say, find out how much information the doctor has for you.

Ask more questions, maybe with a specialist in both "sport's medicine" and heart stuff.

Then, try stuff "gradually" and do "taper up" and "taper down" like a real athlete.

At first, I had to wear a chest and wristwatch heart monitor, sports type, to learn my target heart rate and how to keep it in the "zone" my cardiologist appproved of, for me. This was at the stage of "walking around the neighborhood" because my heart needed to stabilize.

Then, I used the "sports type" chest and wristwatch monitor for slightly increased activity.

I got a map of the roads in San Francisco, from the City Engineer's office, having all the percentage road grades I color-coded and found the "easy" paths around town, and I walked.

Maybe you didn't have anaphylaxic shock and heart failure and stage II kidney failure, but I am saying, if I can do it, if you proceed to learn the new things I had to learn, and ask questions, I think a heart patient can get back to hiking.

I went lightweight and ultralightweight, but I am not missing stuff I need or missing stuff I want to have on an enjoyable backpack.

Mountain Dew
08-24-2004, 04:30
GREAT answers to a question and may God improve your health through hiking brother. :sun

08-24-2004, 07:30
Thanks for all the comments and encouragement. I have started the walks in the neighborhood. Mine being in the foothills of N.C. I have noticed the heat is more of a problem now. But i am more of a late fall all winter and early spring hiker anyway so that should not be such a problem. Again thanks for the encouragement and advice. So its off to the doctors for the run down on my health.

Spirit Walker
08-24-2004, 09:51
For further encouragement - we have a couple of friends who have had triple bypass surgery who still backpack. One discovered his heart problems while thruhiking, went back out two years later and finished the trail. The other completed section hiking the trail, after his surgery, and started the Colorado Trail this summer. Both do a lot of trail maintenance. When Tom was told he would need a pacemaker, he resisted because he was afraid he'd have to stop using a chainsaw and weedwhacker. The doctor insisted, but said they would test to see if the machinary interfered with the pacemaker. It didn't. So he still goes out on trailcrews and he still hikes regularly. His only restriction is that his wife won't let him go out alone.

As others have said, talk to your doctor. But don't worry, chances are this won't end your hiking.

08-24-2004, 13:01
I had no heart attack but did have a triple by-pass Sept. 2001. In May of 2002 I did my first backpack since my surgery. I hike and backpack every chance I get, I always have ! I met my wife hiking with CMC 4 years ago. We just finished the Georgia section of the AT this past May. I walk 3 to 4 miles daily and workout with weights 3 times a week. The heart thing was a big surprize for me! I have always been active. A month before my surgery I lead a backpack for our local Sierra Club up Greggory Bald in the Smokies with no problem. Later the next month had a touch of angina while playing softball, that's when I went to the Doc. Found out I had 3 major blockages and should have been dead! I was blessed! The Doc took an artery from my lower left arm to give me some new pipes. Good as new they say!

Follow your Doctor's advice. Anyone reading this and has not had their cholesterol checked lately PLEASE DO SO !!!!!!!!!!! Age does not matter!!
I was 47 at that time. Since then I have changed my diet & manage my stress better. One of the best ways for me to relieve stress is to hike & backpack.
Happy Trails!!!!!! Take care of yourself!!!!!!!! ;)

08-24-2004, 13:48
Maybe someone could help out here. Unfortunally I just found out the hard way that i have a heart condition. While working last week i had chest pains and went to the hospital and the next moring i was getting 3 stents put in my right main artery. Having now told all of you this. Has anyone else had this news given to them and any advice on my now doing hikes alone. Going out on hikes alone is really my main concern. And maybe how long after having surgery was it before you might have went on a backpacking trip. Any help with this problem. I would be thankfull to here from you.

I had known for years that I had a leaky heart valve. When I walked the trail in '93 I knew for sure. Everyone was faster than I was on the uphills. I tended to catch up on the downhills. I have long legs.

I developed an irregular rhythm a couple of years ago, that slowed me a lot. That triggered the surgery, which I had been resisting, though by the time I entered the hospital I was pretty much back to normal, thanks to a fractional second electric shock pulse to the heart.

Unfortunately, after the heart valve replacement (a piece of pig skin) my cardiologist kept me on heart rhythm medicine that permanently poisoned my lungs -- a common side effect, but my cardiologist (popularly considered one of the best in Maine) failed to recognize the symptoms.

My advice is to hike wherever and whenever you want to. Always listen to what your doctor recommends, but always research to the extent possible what he tells you. If you uncover potential problems, discuss them with the doctor and if you still have questions demand a second opinion, preferably from someone other than a doctor recommended by your cardiologist.

Unfortunately I didn't follow my own advice. I was worried about the rat poison my cardiologist wanted me to take for the rest of my life. I didn't research amiodarone, which he claimed to be a "routine" medicine.

It is. But for those of us in the 1 to 3 percent that react unfavorably, 17 percent of us die from the medicine. The rest of us, or most of us, live forever after with reduced lung capacity.

The lung doctor immediately stopped all the seven medicines my cardiologist had prescribed after the surgery. The lung doc knew something was causing the problem, but he wasn't sure which.

When I returned to the cardiologist last January for a check up, he exclaimed, "Aren't you glad you had the surgery. You used to take seven medicines and now you don't take any."

I didn't sue, but I now have a different perspective on politicians who lament "frivolous" medical law suits.


08-25-2004, 07:44
Ijust had valve replacement surgery 2.5 years ago Porcine pig valve. I am fortunate to not have the cholesterol or clogged artery probelm. My problem was congenital - a bicuspid aortic valve rather than the normal tricuspid vavle (3-leaflet).

I had noticed from around 1993-1994 and forward that I slowly losing my ability to breathe on hills and mountains. It got to a point in 2000 where I found myself planning trips based on elevation gain (or lack of) so that I didn't have to struggle with breathing. My cardiologist was reluctant to do anything other than increase the strength of my drugs - At that time I was on several drugs to reduce the stress on my heart. He felt I could stay on a regimen of drugs for another 20 years (I was 40) and then get a new valve.

in 2000, I moved to a new city and started seeing a new cardiologist, who was more aggressive and who recommended that I quickly get a new valve put in and avoid any problems with an irreversible damage from an enlarged heart. At that time my ejection fraction was 31% (A normal heart is around 67%). I was basically pumping enough oxygenated blood to do daily functions and not much more.

I had the surgery at the start of 2002. While recovering on day 2, my aorta burst and I lost most of my blood through my chest tube holes (and teetered at death's doorstep for at least an hour or so) and had a 3-hour emergency surgery to repair the aorta.

I was home from the hosp by Mid January and by the end of the first week, walking 1/2 mile/day. Week 2 saw me at a mile a day - All flat stuff, no hills.

By the end of February I could walk upwards of 2 miles a day, but that previous month was difficult- a lot of pain and a lot of depression and crying. I don't know why, it just happens.
I went on an overnight backpack trip the first week of April and felt very good. I started multiday backpacking after 5.5 months completing a section in PA. I felt completely comfortable being alone in the woods again.

(I foolishly hiked up Camelback in Scottsdale in March in the heat, but that is a whole different story)

Most of my training to regain lung capacity was done on or near the AT - I was fortunate enough to live near the climb out of Palmerton, so I could hike that often and also regain my bravado - I found that after surgery, you have to deal witht he fact that you are afraid of many things and are extreme in being careful.
In September, 8 months post surgery, I climbed Katahdin to celebrate my buddys completion of the NE 115. I was scared and I shed a few tears on the way up. but I did great.
Since then I have hiked/backpacked over 1,000 miles completing about 400 on the AT (not including sections I rehike several times) and I feel great.
I thank god every day I am alive and I would recommend valve surgery to anyone who was facing the problems I had 4-5 years ago.

08-25-2004, 18:29
By the end of February I could walk upwards of 2 miles a day, but that previous month was difficult- a lot of pain and a lot of depression and crying. I don't know why, it just happens....
No one knows why that happens, and it is a very challenging problem in dealing with folks after cardiac surgery. You are very fortunate to have kept up the exercise, as that may be one of the best ways to reduce that depression.

Hell, you're fortunate to have survived a blown aorta.


08-25-2004, 23:37
In may 2005 ,it will be 10 years since I had an Aortic heart valve replaced.
mine was replaced with a Homograph,which is a valve from a human cadaver.
I only spent 2 weeks in the hospitol but 6 months total healing time with home nursing. I started walking while still in the hospitol and have been doing it regular ever since. I think hiking has been the best therapy I could do!!! My case was a little unusual I think.First I found out that I had been born missing a heart valve and that another one was deformed,Ive also had a heart murmer ,prolly since birth. I had 4 severely impacted wisdom teeth and one eventually broke and became infected.This was a pretty good sized infection that severely damaged my hearing ,swole(sp) my spleen like a balloon and damaged the heart valve.Strong antibiotics took care of the spleen ,but since that valve was deformed ,the infections were able to take hold and that was that! I took antibiotics and blood thinners for about 4 months total after the surgery but once they were no longer needed I havnt had to take any meds except some antibiotics for infection barrier ,when I go to the dentist or have some other kind of procedure.The only problem Ive had since the surgery is some leakage from the new valve ,but they just told me to see how it goes and as far as I know it hasnt caused any more problems. Like I said hiking has been great therapy ,and Ive learned how to pace myself(finally lol) especially on those hills1!Like someone mentioned before ,the heat does effect me even more now but I never was a hot weather person anyway.I know about that post op depression also!! The docs told me thats pretty common.With things they can do these days we all have a way better chance of living a long life even after heart attacks and such!!! Good luck to everybody and happy hiking/healing!! Streamweaver

12-17-2005, 19:41
i wish i found this a while ago but PLEASE i am a heart patient and i am planning a 07 sobo i need some specific advice you can p.m. me or my e-mail is [email protected]


12-17-2005, 20:11
When my husband had some heart problems a few years back, the best thing we did was search until we found a cardiologist who is interested in sports miedicine. Actually, through a lucky break, we found the person who is the cardiologist/advisor to the NYC Marathon!

Please do be sure to find yourself a doctor who understand the "sporting life" and who is sensitive to a person's need to continue with strenuous exercise to the extent possible. The first doctor my husband saw told him that he was doomed to a lifetime of rocking-chair sitting and should look for a hobby like making model boats. My husband was about ready to pack it in right then and there... but after we found someone who was understanding about his need to continue with the active life, things changed 100%. He continues to long-distance cycle, run, row, and do all the things he loves to do. Had we listened to that original doctor, shoot, I can't imagine where we'd be by now.

Contact your local university. Ask all your buddies. Ask any doctor friends you may have, whether they're heart doctors or not. Use the 'net. Contact your local roadrunners club. Sports medicine/cardiologists are out there, and WELL worth seeking out IMO!

Good luck to you.

Jane in CT

12-17-2005, 20:45
Maybe someone could help out here. Unfortunally I just found out the hard way that i have a heart condition.......ETC,...........


Good luck in your RECOVERY...you'll be back...hikin' in the mountains before
no time! :D

12-17-2005, 23:09
Maybe someone could help out here. Unfortunally I just found out the hard way that i have a heart condition.

I had a quaduraple bypass three years ago. Three of the bypasses didn't take, so I had a couple of stints put in two years ago.

The only issue that has made a long-term difference is the medication. I was perscribed a "Beta Blocker" that slows my pulse rate down enough that when I start hiking, I take a bit longer to get my pulse rate up. If the trail is an immediate steep climb, I have to take it easy for the first half mile or so. Once my pulse rate gets up to normal, I can do anything I could do before.

Since my bypass I have hiked both Wonderland Trails (Washington and Maine), climbed Mt. Washington and hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness.

I do carry a satellite phone in my backpack. It keeps my wife from worrying.