YOUR HEALTH: Some heart patients should still break a sweat

WACO, Texas – 56-year old Bobby Williams has congestive heart failure and has been treated with an implantable defibrillator and a left ventricular assist device.

Not long ago, doctors would have discouraged heavy exercise for this condition.   Now, Bobby is encouraged to work out as hard as he wants.

"I feel like a bionic man sometimes. I feel great."

"It's safe for patients to participate in vigorous athletics," said Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Jay Olen Franklin.

"And so it's recommended that the physician and the patient work together but then in the majority of cases, individual patients can continue to exercise vigorously and participate in sports, even contact sports with safety, and that the patients not significantly at risk."

Any patient who has had any type of transplant or implantable device should consult with their doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators do not prevent a life-threatening rhythm disturbance, but they prevent sudden death by sending an electric shock to correct the disturbance.   Heavy exercise does not impede their function.

"I've been there since these devices were all we had every step of the way to where we now have incredibly sophisticated devices that come in a platform this size, which is amazing," explained Dr. Franklin.

The L-VAD, which operates on an external battery and regulates normal blood flow, will be removed if and when Bobby qualifies for a heart transplant, which is part of the reason he works out to get stronger.

"Stay active and you will win," he said.

TREATMENT VIA ICD: Patients with congestive heart failure may be required to get an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or ICD. This is a battery-powered device placed under the skin that keeps track of a person`s heart rate. Thin wires also connect the ICD to the heart, and if an abnormal rhythm is detected the device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. An ICD may also be recommended for patients with a history of ventricular arrhythmia or heart attack, those who have survived a sudden cardiac arrest, or long QT syndrome as well as brugada syndrome. Most likely a patient can return to a nearly normal lifestyle; however, a doctor will advise what kind of machines or equipment should be avoided, as well as limit physical activity for some.   (Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Implantable-Cardioverter-Defibrillator-ICD_UCM_448478_Article.jsp#.WfM7jFtSzDA)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.