How Cycling Helped This Man Recover From Open-Heart Surgery – Bicycling


Posted: October 9, 2020 at 3:52 am

Age: 65Occupation: Retired commercial tire business ownerHometown: Sparta, New JerseyStart weight: 180 poundsEnd weight: 153 poundsTime cycling: 15 yearsReason for cycling: To improve health and to recover from cardiac events.

One of my coworkers died of a heart attack two feet away from me when I was in my late 40s. I thought, Wow thats not going to be me. But I knew I had to make some serious lifestyle changes in order to help prevent that from happening. Though I was an athlete when I was younger, I hadnt done anything in 25 yearslife and kids get in the wayand my diet was one of convenience, not health.

I hated running, and though I was a swimmer when I was young, had no desire to get back into a pool. I always thought cycling was fun, so I jumped on a bike. I rode about a mile, and though I was sweating profusely, I was enjoying it, and it got me back outside.

Then, my brother, introduced me to spin class around 2006. The sweat was great, and I started going four to five times a week. That was my main form of exercise as I was losing weightI wasnt doing much cycling outdoors.

Additionally, my wife took on a healthy cooking routine. Changing what we ate and getting a lot of exercise helped me shed pounds and develop my fitness. We used to eat quite a bit of pasta and red meat. Now, we eat a boatload of chicken, fish, and veggies, and we focus on consuming good salads without dressing.

In spin class, I met someone who was an avid cyclist with Skylands Cycling club, and he encouraged me to give it a whirl. One day I went out for a ride with him, and I just loved it. I decided to get a decent bike, and it was something I completely enjoyed.

I went from riding five to 10 miles at a time to 30-mile rides, and I kept getting stronger and stronger. I never raced, but I consider myself a competitive recreational ridera lot of people I ride with do race, so my competition is to keep up with them on rides.

Back in 2012, I was doing a very aggressive Saturday morning ride on a hot, humid September day. I remember going up a hill and saying to my buddy, I dont feel like killing myself today, and I turned around. He thought I wasnt feeling well because that was different for my personality. My wife suggested I call my doctor, and he said I should go to the hospital to get checked out.

It turned out I had a blockage in my artery, and that was the first time I had to get a stent put in my heart to open up my artery. All was well and good, and I got back on the bike about two weeks later. My riding was terrific, up until 2019.

In the end of October 2019, I had another blockage. The first blockage was in a really small artery, so the doctors thought there was a good possibility a piece of plaque came off and blocked the artery. This blockage, in my right-side coronary artery, was different than my blockage in 2012, and doctors think it may have been due to genetics. This time, I had two stents put in to open it up.

About six months later, in April 2020, I started to feel the same way I did in October when I was riding. Thanks to cycling, I know my body and how I feel at different heart rate levels. This time, I could feel a sensation on the left side of my chest and behind left arm that I knew wasnt supposed to be there.

I called my cardiologist and went to the hospital. Doctors found that the artery had rejected the stent and had swelled up and blocked the stent. Having two stents in may have taken some of the flexibility out of the artery, and the doctor spent three hours trying to open them back up, a procedure that normally takes 30 minutes. With no luck fixing the issue, I had to undergo open-heart surgery.

Being fit really helped me recover from my open-heart surgery, which has turned me into an advocate for being fit. If youre fit before going into any kind of surgery, there is a day and night difference in your recovery. When I was released from the hospital, I wasnt allowed to drive for six weeks. At week seven of recovery, I got on my trainer in the basement, and started doing some soft pedaling. By August, I rode more than over 420 miles in the month.

Ive always monitored my heart rate, and now I do it for both my fitness and health. My doctors have suggested I keep it at 140 or lower. Im riding four times a week minimum, as well as going to cardiac rehab, in which I do a lot of rowing. I typically walk after that, as its a lot of work. Im up to 25 to 40 miles a week, and Im back riding with my group. I dont have the strength I used to in order to keep up with the group, but theyre kind enough to wait for me at the top of the hill. I also continue to attend spin classes in the winter when its too cold to ride outside.

One of the great things about participating in any sport where you elevate your heart rate, you become familiar with how your body feels when your heart rate is elevated. This can help you recognize when something is wrong. If theres something wrong and you feel its an early warning sign. If you heed it, youre ahead of the game.

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How Cycling Helped This Man Recover From Open-Heart Surgery - Bicycling

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