In the last three months I have seen my doctor, a cardiologist and a physiologist; been wired up to a heart event monitor for two weeks, had my thyroid checked, had an echocardiogram and a treadmill stress test; told not to run; told I could run; started taking metoprolol to lower my pulse rate; and spent a lot of time online researching heart arrhythmias. It has been interesting, as well as a bit unsettling, but all of the visits and tests are done for now.
I have an irregular heartbeat. This is nothing new, fairly common and nothing to worry about. When it gets bad, I can feel it. But it is safe to ignore, or so I am told.
I also have both atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. These are not all that uncommon and can be a source of concern. But I am assured that in my case the risk of blood clots and stroke are pretty low: lower than the risk of taking blood thinners to prevent potential clots.
The cause is pretty much anybody’s guess at this point. Most of the common causes are not applicable to me: don’t smoke, don’t drink, not obese, no other family history of heart issues. Cholesterol is up a bit and caffeine consumption is way down with no impact. It does seem to be triggered by exercise, but no indication that running brought it on in the first place.
There is a fairly easy and reliable procedure to deal with atrial flutter. There is also a similar procedure that can deal with atrial fibrillation, but it is more involved with only about a 70% chance of correcting the problem the first time. Both procedures could be done at the same time, but my condition is not really serious enough to justify the risks during the procedure or the risk of having it not work. At some point in the future that may change; but for now those procedures are not planned.
Metoprolol is a beta blocker that is used to treat a variety of ailments, including mine. I am taking it because it reduces the heart rate and keeps it from getting to high. It has dropped my resting heart rate from the upper 50’s down into the upper 40’s, as well as reducing my blood pressure a bit. More significantly, it drops the 150 bpm when running down to about 115. So now, when my heart decides to go into fibrillation it only gets up to 150 instead of 210.
The downside to this is that my legs complain when running that they are not getting enough oxygen, reducing what was a moderate pace for an old guy to what seems like a crawl. But of course the upside to it is that I can run and hike and whatever other strenuous activity I want to do, so long as I take a pill twice a day, and am not in a hurry. Small price to pay, I guess.
The bottom line is that I am free to resume my normal routine with no limitations, so long as I continue to take the metoprolol. Keep an eye on the heart rate while running, and if it begins to climb again, report back to my electrophysiologist. And check back with him in a year.