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Heart health on long rides

Old 06-17-19, 08:33 AM
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jimmymcg
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Heart health on long rides

I have just completed an 600 km this weekend, the coast to coast 600 in Ireland. An amazing route however there was a fatality near the end of the event when one of the guys had a massive heart attack.
He was very fit and had previously completed other long distance events.
I know that this sort of thing uncommon but it has got me thinking about my own health.
After long distance cycles, say over 300km, my heart beat is higher than normal and beats a little harder. It takes about a day to get back to normal.
I have always put this down as "normal" but after being so close to this tragedy it has got me thinking.
So basically I'm just wondering do you guys feel the same after a big event? What is your average heartbeat on a long ride? Mine was 136 for the 600km and I'm wondering if that's a bit high?
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Old 06-17-19, 11:30 AM
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unterhausen
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That's really sad, I hate to hear about it. Healthy people have heart problems, and they are often more likely to be undiagnosed.


Higher is not actually normal. Usually people have lower heart rates on long rides. Not sure what to advise you. I don't know if a physician would have you evaluated for this. I suppose it might be worth checking.
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Old 06-17-19, 11:42 AM
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Cardiac output = HR x Stroke Volume.

If your left ventricle outputs less blood per beat than another person, then your heart rate will be higher (this assumes you have the same demand for oxygen for your muscles that the person you are comparing yourself to has). There is also the phenomena of heart rate drift which occurs when you become dehydrated over the course of a long endurance event. Less blood volume means that you will have less blood pumped out per beat (stroke volume) and thus your heart rate will drift upwards.

One test a physician can order is an echocardiogram which will evaluate the ejection fraction (what % of blood is pumped out of the ventricle with each beat) as well as the functioning of your heart valves. It also evaluates the thickness of the walls of the heart chambers. It is a non-invasive test.

ETA: I don't find it particularly useful to try to compare heart rates among individuals. But it is useful to keep track of your particular heart rate at a given effort and investigate if it is trending much higher than normal. Could be indicative of a structural issue or an electrical issue (a-fib comes to mind). Certainly worthwhile discussing with your physician.

Last edited by GadgetGirlIL; 06-17-19 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 06-17-19, 01:36 PM
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I agree you can't compare heart rates, mine is pretty low while exercising. But not particularly low while resting.
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Old 06-17-19, 01:58 PM
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Thanks for the reply guys.
I thought the faster my heartbeat then the more stress it would encounter. And perhaps I should ease off on such long spins.
I have had the tests that you recommended above and everything was good. This is part of the reason I just thought it was normal.
However, I didn't realise that dehydration could affect my heart like that. This would make more sense as I also have headaches which I'm sure is dehydration.
I do drink as much as I can but I must admit I don't take much electrolytes.
I'll work on this on my next long ride. Thanks again everyone.
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Old 06-17-19, 02:07 PM
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GadgetGirlIL
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I find that in the hot weather that I need to try to take a drink about every mile (my Garmin watch buzzes every mile so that is helpful). When I used to run, I couldn't figure out why I would feel so crappy after about 3 hours. Then one day I dragged my bathroom scale with me to the forest preserve where I ran. I weighed myself and then kept track of how many water bottles I went through (a pint is approximately a pound). I weighed 4 pounds less than when I started even though I drank 9 pounds (pints) of fluid. No wonder I felt so miserable.

I hate exercising in the heat. I'm a snow bunny.
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Old 06-17-19, 02:52 PM
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Your maximum heart rate also might make an HR of 136 seem lower or higher. My max HR is 188-192, at least that's as high as I've ever recorded... anyway my average on my last 600 was 131 and I only got it as high as 160 on that one so I don't feel like there's a problem. My resting heart rate last time I measured it overnight was 55... I dunno that there's much one can do besides get the medical tests and try to stay as fit.

In the heat I tend to slow down a bit and try to drink less water, not more. By slowing down I don't need to drink so much and more importantly I don't generate quite as much body heat as I do when it's cooler out. I've read that the most water anyone can absorb in an hour is between 500-800ml so I try never to go over a bottle an hour for myself, since my bottles are ~700ml. I think drinking just enough to satiate thirst is important, drinking beyond that just invites hyponatremia.
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Old 06-17-19, 03:57 PM
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I think part of heat tolerance is not needing to drink so much. I know I have had trouble drinking too much on my ill-fated 600k dnfs. Then later in the summer I don't have any problems. I try to avoid dehydration though. As far as electrolytes go, I only use them to balance my intake of water. Or if I'm cramping. But cramping for me is often a sign that I have had too much water and too little electolytes.

Back to the original subject, a lot of randonneurs are of the age where the general population starts to have heart problems, often fatal. We are out, away from services, and if a serious heart issue happens then, the outcomes can be really serious. Fortunately this kind of thing is pretty rare, certainly more rare than among our age cohort that doesn't exercise. I am at risk for heart problems, so I am taking them seriously. It's obvious that cycling isn't a cure for this kind of thing.
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Old 06-17-19, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Back to the original subject, a lot of randonneurs are of the age where the general population starts to have heart problems, often fatal. We are out, away from services, and if a serious heart issue happens then, the outcomes can be really serious. Fortunately this kind of thing is pretty rare, certainly more rare than among our age cohort that doesn't exercise. I am at risk for heart problems, so I am taking them seriously. It's obvious that cycling isn't a cure for this kind of thing.
Nearly every year on RAGBRAI, one rider out of the 10-20,000 will die of a heart attack. It will make the news, and friends and family members will let me know once I've gotten home myself. There seems to be a subtext to it that riding bikes can be dangerous, but I have to remind them that a lot more people died on their couches that week. They just didn't make the news.
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Old 06-17-19, 06:49 PM
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it's news because the ragbrai rider didn't die of alcohol poisoning


The main thing to take away from randonneuring deaths is that we are not immune. But there is only so much you can do. I know from watching my dad that inactivity is worse.
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Old 06-18-19, 08:26 AM
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I know that this sort of thing uncommon but it has got me thinking about my own health. After long distance cycles, say over 300km, my heart beat is higher than normal and beats a little harder. It takes about a day to get back to normal.
I have always put this down as "normal" but after being so close to this tragedy it has got me thinking.
No doubt - paying attention to your heart rate during exercise can certainly help you pace yourself or determine how much exercise recovery you need.

Whenever I hear another "heart attack story" - I always wonder why other important factors to overall fitness, like blood vessel health and life style histories are seldom mentioned.

The heart is only one part of a complicated vascular system that can have many defects that do not necessarily affect exercise capacity.

In any case, I believe endurance exercise in general - even "ultra-endurance exercise" - is on average more beneficial to cardiovascular health to most cyclists. I don't read much in to the exceptions.
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Old 06-18-19, 11:01 AM
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I suffered from PVCs and other irregularities for a few years after a poorly prescribed medication. I still sometimes have issues with the PVCs, but it is normally when I'm dehydrated.
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Old 06-18-19, 11:15 AM
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My PVC's are all due to caffeine, which is really annoying because I love coffee. I take magnesium for that, which works well. Unfortunately, my BP meds promote blood potassium, which can be fatal if it gets too high. Potassium helps a lot with my PVC's, but obviously I have had to cut back.
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Old 06-18-19, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
My PVC's are all due to caffeine
Mine too. I went through a bunch of cardiac testing, some invasive, when I had what appeared to be a run of ventricular tachycardia during a VO2max test in our lab back in 2013. I had developed a wicked addiction to energy drinks to get me through my doctoral program and wasn't able to quit. But all this testing got my attention and after being threatened with medications, I weaned off the energy drinks. I have less than 100mg of caffeine on normal days (2 diet colas). On ride days, I do ingest more caffeine and sometimes notice a lot of PVCs for about 12 hours after the ride has ended.

The only positive of all the testing is that my coronary arteries are squeaky clean! Considering I was morbidly obese for too many years of my life, I feel like I really dodged a bullet.

I'm probably more likely to take after my father who ended up getting a pacemaker at age 76 after a strenuous hike in the Grand Canyon. Electrical, not plumbing problems.
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Old 06-18-19, 01:49 PM
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I think that is the big risk for endurance cyclists, too much wiring in the heart causing problems.
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