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HOW CYCLING SAVED (possibly) MY LIFE

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HOW CYCLING SAVED (possibly) MY LIFE

Old 10-20-13, 08:17 PM
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eja_ bottecchia
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HOW CYCLING SAVED (possibly) MY LIFE

On a recent thread, I wrote about my recent nuclear stress test--a procedure designed to determine whether there is any arterial blockage or other damage to the heart muscle. The test was prompted by chest pains while going on long climbs and a general lack of "performance" while riding. After ignoring the pain for weeks (I know, that was REALLY dumb) I finally decided to talk to my GP about it. After listening to me for less than a minute, my GP stopped me, picked up his phone and made an appointment for me to see a cardio.

I saw the cardio the next day and he set me up with a nuclear treadmill stress test. I had the test last Wednesday and, for the most part, it went well. I mean, the doctor did not stop the treadmill and had me rushed to the OR, so I assumed that was a good sign.

The doctor asked me to return on Friday to discuss the results of the test. This is when I got good and bad news.

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...2#post16170272

The good news is that my heart is strong and healthy. This is good news because as a Type 2 diabetic I always worry about the effect of diabetes, and blood sugars, on the heart itself.

The bad news is that the test showed the presence of some arterial blockage. It is this arterial blockage that is causing the chest pain (angina) when I push myself while climbing. The heart is a muscle and, like any muscle, it needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to operate at maximum efficiency. Angina is caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the heart muscle which, like any other muscle in the body, starts to "hurt" when levels of lactic acid go up.

I am scheduled for an angiogram this coming Tuesday. Depending on what he cardio sees, he may put a stent to keep that bad boy wide open.
I told the doc that I was really bummed out by the whole situation. That is when he told me the following:

1. First, he told me, my heart is strong enough and healthy enough that it was able to keep pumping blood, spite of the blockage--that is why I could keep riding and climbing with only minimal chest discomfort. He said that sustained aerobic exercise, like bike riding, is very good for the heart.

2. Second, he said, that if I led a sedentary life and never pushed myself (and my heart) as much as I do, I would have never discovered the blockage. He said I could have kept on going for years until I dropped dead from a heart attach while doing something easy, like working in the garden.

This is a long way to say that cycling (possibly) saved my life; it saved my life by serving as an early-warning system alerting me to a potentially dangerous heart condition before the problem became worse. I think about all the young, and seemingly healthy athletes, who drop dead of a heart attack while exercising, That could have been me (or you).
I can now add one more item to the long list of benefits of cycling.

Just don't do like I did and ignore your body's warning signs. If you are feeling chest pains, don't be like me and put off seeing a doctor. The delay could be fatal.

I will post on the results of the angiogram.

Ride often and ride safely.

Last edited by eja_ bottecchia; 10-20-13 at 08:51 PM.
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Old 10-20-13, 08:44 PM
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So-so news with a great silver lining!

I think I'm gonna follow your example and get a complete workup. No chest pains, but I've got a family history.
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Old 10-21-13, 03:58 AM
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Good luck tomorrow.
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Old 10-21-13, 04:36 AM
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Still good news. Even though you have some blockage, you are in far better health than had you been sedentary--and if sedentary, as you stated, it would not have been discovered. You will likely live much longer now because of cycling. Cycling has certainly improved my own heath significantly.
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Old 10-21-13, 05:48 AM
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Good luck!
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Old 10-21-13, 06:56 AM
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I had terrible angina for years and still exercised like crazy, including a trip to the weight room the night before my angiogram(!) With blockages of 100/100/90/70 percent I asked how can I even be alive??? The doc said apart from just strengthening the heart, exercise encourages artherogenesis - i.e. you grow new small blood vessels which 'bypass' the blocked ones. Interesting.

p.s. Why did I let things get really bad before going to the doctor? Well, I didn't want stents, I wanted the real deal which lasts 20 years. And I didn't want to go on a waiting list, finally get a date, then get bumped several times - I got emergency bypass surgery right away. You have to adapt to your medical system. Or head south of the border .
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Old 10-21-13, 07:05 AM
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There's a waiting list for bypass surgery?
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Old 10-21-13, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
There's a waiting list for bypass surgery?
Depends on severity. If it is safe to wait, you will wait. If it is life threatening, you will be sliced and spliced before you know it.

Last edited by jdon; 10-21-13 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 10-21-13, 07:31 AM
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There is no doubt that cycling can prolong a persons life. As I have posted before, if you set you rust.
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Old 10-21-13, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
There's a waiting list for bypass surgery?
That's so cute. You're not from around here, are you?
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Old 10-21-13, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post
The bad news is that the test showed the presence of some arterial blockage. It is this arterial blockage that is causing the chest pain (angina) when I push myself while climbing. The heart is a muscle and, like any muscle, it needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to operate at maximum efficiency. Angina is caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the heart muscle which, like any other muscle in the body, starts to "hurt" when levels of lactic acid go up.

I am scheduled for an angiogram this coming Tuesday. Depending on what he cardio sees, he may put a stent to keep that bad boy wide open.
I waited until I had to be hauled off in an ambulance for an emergency angio. Within hours I was feeling 200% and wanted back on the bike, but was told that the incision, while quite small, is on a major blood vessel that could bleed out really bad if not treated carefuly.
Originally Posted by eja_ bottecchia View Post

1. First, he told me, my heart is strong enough and healthy enough that it was able to keep pumping blood, spite of the blockage--that is why I could keep riding and climbing with only minimal chest discomfort. He said that sustained aerobic exercise, like bike riding, is very good for the heart.
Docs told me this as well. I had been riding my bike at the time. This was in ’08. Ironically I had a second one in ’12, a year ago last month. This one came with no warning right after finishing 20 miles, that I capped off with a Jalepeno Cheeseburger and Arogant Bastard Pale Ale.

Docs told me the meal was probably not a factor. I am one to err conservatively, and will never do that again. The thing is that after a stent, you will be put on a drug like Lipitor, which helps keep it open. Other drugs they give you can be eliminated through diet and exercise, but unfortunately, not this one. I was not always real good about remembering to take my meds, and skipping that one a few times may have been a factor too.

Docs told me that what happened to me was a ruptured unstable plaque. Plaques, hard calcium deposits, encapsulate fatty masses adhered to the blood vessel walls. A jolt, like hitting a pothole on a bike, could have dislodged it and let it move up to where it blocked the right anterior vessel, where one of my two stents is now a double.

We get old. No escaping it, but we can make the best of it by getting our arses in the saddle.

Originally Posted by NVanHiker View Post
. . . I wanted the real deal which lasts 20 years. And I didn't want to go on a waiting list, finally get a date, then get bumped several times - I got emergency bypass surgery right away. You have to adapt to your medical system. Or head south of the border .
I was afraid of the whole bypass thing. That is a major invasive procedure and the recovery time is months. Also, while there are no waiting list down here, that's because not every one who needs one is allowed to get one.

Last edited by CommuteCommando; 10-21-13 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 10-21-13, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by NVanHiker View Post
That's so cute. You're not from around here, are you?
I hear they call it Vantucky

Anyway, folks, let's not go political, or he may hit back with the relative size of the medical bills.

To the OP, good luck. BTW, I was very apprehensive before my cath, but it was a piece of cake, as long as they give you a little Versed and Fentanyl.
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Old 10-21-13, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by NVanHiker View Post
I had terrible angina for years and still exercised like crazy, including a trip to the weight room the night before my angiogram(!) With blockages of 100/100/90/70 percent I asked how can I even be alive??? The doc said apart from just strengthening the heart, exercise encourages artherogenesis - i.e. you grow new small blood vessels which 'bypass' the blocked ones. Interesting.
Yup ... artherogenesis. I heard the same. I'm counting on it. (j/k)
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Old 10-21-13, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395 View Post
Yup ... artherogenesis. I heard the same. I'm counting on it. (j/k)
Yep, +1 on the artherogenesis. Natural bypass is the way to go.

My attack was in '04 with a 100% RCA (way in back, near the end) and a pair of 70's in the LDA. No stents or bypass; just an Rx for meds and exercise. I tried walking and running but it just didn't float my boat. Then I bought a bike .... :-)

I agree with the OP, biking saved my life. One thing about getting the angiogram, at least now you know everything you need to know about your cardiovascular status. I still have a copy of my cath films from '04.

Eja --> Good luck tomorrow !!!
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Old 10-21-13, 11:25 AM
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I think this occasion calls for a megabuck spending spree on a new bike with a power crank and all the electronics so you can make impressive looking graphs of bpm vs kW et al. It's your health we're talking about here... spare no expense.

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Old 10-21-13, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by CommuteCommando View Post
We get old. No escaping it . . .
Ohhh, there's a way of escaping the aging process all right. I don't think you'll like it though.

OP - Congrats on the (relatively) good news. I've been following the thread about the nuclear stress test. Glad it looks like it's going to end well.
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Old 10-21-13, 03:11 PM
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I was not as lucky as the OP and was probably at my peak fitness for 10 years. In training for a hard ride and my riding partner was flagging over a few rides we did. On the sunday did a ride of 65 miles and I suggested one last hill to my ride partner and he groaned. Got up that last hill and off home to watch F1 on the tv. Those 65 miles offroad took it out of me though and had to watch the later recording.
Going into work on Tuesday and in a traffic jam and heartburn came on. Within a few minutes it was severe enough for me to divert off the road and phone for an ambulance. 3 months later and triple bypass.

I had never had any sign of a heart problem and did not know what a heart attack felt like but severe heartburn- breaking into a cold sweat and when I looked in the mirror I had no colour on my face and I felt sick. When I got to the angiogram the surgeon asked me one question---Swimming or Cycling? Pardon was my reply and he said that 3 arteries were blocked but the Aorta was perfect and pumping hard. Whatever sport I did had saved my life as the heart pumped through the blockages and kept me alive till the hospital took over.
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Old 10-21-13, 03:19 PM
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OP, best of luck. I had a quintuple bypass in February and unfortunately it did not go well, but my case was very rare. These days this procedure is almost routine and you should get many more years of good quality life. But 'be your own physician". If you don't understand anything insist they explain it. Do some research and know what is being done to you and why. Having my wife and daughter around in the hospital helped me a lot as there were things I didn't have the strength to ask about or didn't remember after the surgery.

Keep riding!
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Old 10-21-13, 03:28 PM
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The hard cycling has probably stimulated the development of collateral circulation- making you less likely to die even if you suddenly developed a complete blockage.
Yeah-cycling like you did- you must have some collateral circulation if there is much blockage.This might have been Stapfam situation also-collaterals from hard exercise saved his bacon(bad pun)
You will be "better than new" once reopened stent placed aspirin other anti platelet drug+ maybe a statin
Statins-no mention ??- do increase blood glucose-certainly did in my wife-they take some managing.
Charlie

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Old 10-21-13, 07:02 PM
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Glad you started this thread OP. Hopefully we will all heed the warning signs and have some lives saved. Thank you.
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Old 10-26-13, 12:35 PM
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UPDATE: i had my angiogram done last Tuesday (10.22). Cardio found 90% blockage in one of my arteries. Even showed me the narrowing on the monitor. So he went in, cleared the blockage and placed a stent.

The procedure went well and other than having to spend the night in the hospital (the over night nursing staff was great, the food not so good) I felt really good throughout the entire procedure.

One thing though, a hospital is not a very dignified place to be in. I was lying on the bed, getting ready for the procedure when one of the nurses came in for "the shave." I shave my legs, but not all the way "up there." She just pulled the covers aside, exposing my now shy and shrinking manhood, and proceeded to shave my groin area. She was very cute, but try as hard as I would (no pun intended) I couldn't look at her straight in the face. She did, however, comment on my rider's tan and on my well-defined leg muscles.

I feel like I am ready to get back on the saddle. But they put in a collagen plug at the site of the incision and the doctor doesn't want it to pop off during a hard ride. He says that I can go riding in another week or so.

So here is the moral of the story.

i am a big adherent of Rule #5 or just STFU. I rode for months with chest pain because I thought that I would get over it (I always had in the past). Pain is a big part of riding...but there are some pains that cannot, or shouldn't, be ignored. Persistent chest pain is right up there in the body's early warning system.

The cardio said that riding hard was good because it made my heart strong. But he added that riding through chest pain was stupid. I ride a lot of hills, mostly alone, if I had had a heart attack they may never have been able to get to me on time.

So, ride strong, ride safely and don't ignore chest pains.
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Old 10-26-13, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
Glad you started this thread OP. Hopefully we will all heed the warning signs and have some lives saved. Thank you.
Hi Bruce, I do hope that my story helps other stay healthy and safe.
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Old 10-26-13, 01:53 PM
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Really, thanks for posting all this! I'm not well versed in all of the signs to watch for in cardiac problems. It's nice to have someone whose personal experience gives you a clue that perhaps the discomfort in your chest during a climb may be something to keep an eye on. Heartburn type pain is dismissed too easily by me....it may be more than that in some cases. I knew I should have been paying attention in "old fogey orientation" class!
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Old 10-26-13, 05:59 PM
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Wonderful news Eja! I'm so glad you're ok.

Charlie
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Old 10-26-13, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Ursa Minor View Post
Wonderful news Eja! I'm so glad you're ok.

Charlie

Thank you Charlie.

But I won't be able to ride the TdC in your lovely city of Santa Barbara. After last year's monsoon ride I was looking forward to Santa Barbara's famed sunshine.
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