Without fail, I receive a monthly call or email from somebody seeking advice about their “heart going out of rhythm.” Usually it’s from a Masters athlete who has been seemingly fine, up to now that calls and describes episodes of irregular heartbeats or their “heart just went out.” Sometimes they describe a fast or slow heart beat along with decreased power output and just not feeling normal. If this happens to you, what should you do?

This is a major crisis to an athlete because it is a situation where one day they were performing just fine and working towards their goals, and then the next day everything just stops. Aging presents itself in different ways, and as master’s athletes we often push ourselves to elevated limits for as long as we can. We often do this thinking that we are staying healthy, but there are times we must know that it is potentially not healthy.

I won’t go into much detail about diagnosing heart arrhythmias as much as the steps you should take in considering how to manage this medical maze.

First and foremost, is this a medical emergency? Things that may tip you off this is something bad are feelings of passing out, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, extremity weakness, chest pain, or anything bad like this. Proceed directly to the hospital and get further evaluation.advanced lipid panel

Assuming that what you have is not a medical emergency, now you can exercise some options. Most people immediately reach out to a friend who is in the medical field and ask what they can do about in irregular heartbeat. This is often a good idea, but be aware you may be referred to a doctor who is not sports minded and this may be frustrating for some. Realize that most medical personnel are only connected to doctors that they know or work with personally. It just depends on who this person happens to know. I often see an athlete or friend who will go the first person available. This is due to the “urgency” of the matter and trying to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

However, it may be worth doing some checking around when looking for a doctor. I always tell people that they need to be comfortable choosing a doctor who will respect their lifestyle and choices. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to ask yourself if there is a complication of some sort, are you comfortable working with this doctor?

Most often when you have a heart arrhythmia you will be referred to a cardiologist or internal medicine doctor who specializes in cardiac issues. If possible, find a cardiologist who participates in sports of some kind, preferably cycling or running. You would be surprised at the number of doctors who participate in some manner in long-distance endurance sports. Consider calling the office and asking the front desk personnel, which doctor participates in running or cycling?

If the doctor tells you that you need a procedure right away, always seek a second opinion if possible. Many procedures seem like a good idea when they are explained, but remember there is never zero risk when undergoing any medical procedure. This applies especially when it comes to the heart!

Be patient with the process. Getting proper medical care can be difficult nowadays, especially with all of the regulations and insurance companies. Remember, that access to health care does not always deliver good health or what you’re looking for. Most active people just want to get back to being active. Sometimes you have to be careful about the doctor you choose, or you may just be told to stop exercising and be happy reading books on the couch. This is why it is so important to have a health advocate on your side to guide you through the process. Even consider a consulting with doctor / nurses who can help you work through the red tape. At the end of the day it’s your health we are talking about and you are the most important patient.

And don’t get caught up with the hysteria of “this is the best doctor.” We all know that there are good doctors and sometimes bad doctors. Remember that most doctors went through a heck of a lot of years in school (minimum 12) just to be able to practice. The best doctor is the one who is going to be your advocate to the end. Often, your gut feeling about a person is the right one.

Hopefully, the next time you or someone you know experiences a heart issue or other health related issue, remember, try to relax, and find the right team to help you get to the end goal, which is riding again!

To your health

Doc Edwards

 

 

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