breathless climbing hills

Good morning.

When climbing a modest incline yesterday with a friend I discovered myself to be breathless four times and paused. Has anyone learned that they simply needed to build stamina to regain losses in ability?

I've read about re-calibrating the PM, but I'm solely interested in people who used to exercise, then had a PM installed, got away from exercise, then got back into it and found themselves with the same challenge.

How long did it take you to regain your ability?

Background: I've always exercised, walked regularly, and have gone to the gym just daily since late July. I do light weights, many floor exercises, one mile on treadmilll. But the walking uphill was a challenge I'd not attempted for a long time. So, is it possible that I'm just out of shape for uphill walking (and, yes, I'll be checking in with my EP/cardiologist also).

I didn't feel muscle weakness, just some panting.  If I did not have a PM and had no history of afib my guess is I'd have just pushed myself past this. But now I'm more leery. So I wonder: Has simply being out of shape affected anyone here, who then went on to practice until they got stronger? Thank you for thoughts. It was unsettling


Out of breath

by Theknotguy - 2019-10-14 11:13:01

Ran into the same problem as you.  Only mine was 954 feet on a flat level.  

Talked to my EP and he ran some tests as this started happening after I had my pacemaker for six years.  Tests showed nothing wrong.  EP said it was just a pacemaker adjustment.  

First was a change in rate response.  They had me on the lowest setting.  Most people with pacemakers don't walk three to six miles a day, then move 2000 pounds of wood on Thursdays.  So that helped.  

Second was a change to my afib programs.  But I don't think you have those.  So ask your EP about changing rate response.  

Hope everything else is going well for you.  

Out of breath

by Heartthrob - 2019-10-14 11:20:04

Thank you for your reply. That is helpful and supportive.

Smiled at this: "They had me on the lowest setting.  Most people with pacemakers don't walk three to six miles a day, then move 2000 pounds of wood on Thursdays.  So that helped."

How has it helped? Are you able to  walk greater distances without panting?

I'm also wondering if someone has simply learned they needed to get back into practice and THAT is why they were getting breathless? Just not being in shape.

I used to walk three to six miles three to four miles a day (usually it was three) but got completely away from walking regularly for about 18 months. Long story of being on the wrong medication and then having to switch cardiologist/EP practices to get help I needed.

Bottom line: I'll also get settings checked and I thank you. But I'm realizing that at 75 -- and a very very active 75 -- I need to understand my body can't just laze, then suddenly propel!

Be the Squeaky Wheel

by Heartthrob - 2019-10-14 20:43:16

Thank you Swangirl for your post.

First off, my EP and cardiologist team is the best ever. But this just happened on the long weekend, it was not an emergency and I've not been bothered before. So I've left a message and they will get right on it tomorrow. They're the most responsive doctors I've ever met and may in fact have saved my life when I went to them for a second opinion two years ago.

No breathlessness at the gym nor while walking distances. Just that uphill.

But I did wonder if some people might have learned that their own inactivity contributed to the breathlessness and could not be entirely pegged to device. Your story is so helpful as I like to read of people who have changed the trajectory of their issues, for the better. Thanks!

I am very very good at speaking up (smile). And not terribly senior, though my strange age of 75 would suggest otherwise. How can I be 75 when every indicator suggests that I'm 40?

Setting changes

by Theknotguy - 2019-10-14 22:21:36


When they changed the settings on my pacemaker, they first made the rate response a little more sensitive.  So that means when I start to move it's a little quicker to kick my heart rate up.  Don't know what that will do when I go back to riding in the bigger trucks as the vibration in the bigger trucks was kicking my heart rate up before the changes.  The pacemaker was thinking the increased vibration meant that I was moving around more.  Running joke at the Furniture Bank was that I gave the drivers a Roman salute as we were going down the road.  If I just reached up and held the pacemaker with my hand
it would decrease the vibration and slow down my heart rate.  But it did look funny just the same.  

The other changes were specific to my settings.  I have two programs running for afib.  So they went in and made changes to one of those programs.  Like I said, they don't have too many people who move 2000 pounds of wood on Thursdays.  I'd have to go back and discuss with the tech how they changed it, but it sounded good at the time and has worked out very well.  

And yes, I can now walk the 954 feet quickly, mow my lawn faster, and move wood, all without running out of air.  Used to be I'd have to stop and gasp for air.  Now I can just push on through.  Also there is a difference between not being able to do something because you aren't in shape and not being able to do something because your heart rate doesn't come up the proper speed.  

In the mean time keep moving as much as you can.  Every little bit of exercise helps.  

Hope everything else is going well for you.  


Setting changes

by Heartthrob - 2019-10-15 09:25:21

Thank you the knotguy for your helpful reply, plus your very welcome humor! Gosh, if everyone in the world just laughed most of the day, there would be no war or sorrow.

Love this: "Running joke at the Furniture Bank was that I gave the drivers a Roman salute as we were going down the road.  If I just reached up and held the pacemaker with my hand
it would decrease the vibration and slow down my heart rate."

My PM has nothing to do with my afib -- it was placed to control a low heart rate (which I believe was brought on by a medication I was on and not sinus node issues). That said, sadly, I have a pacemaker. So I will be getting info today from my (second-opinion good) doctors on how they will proceed.

I DO keep moving all the time. Not much of a sitter. Yesterday I walked three miles on a beach, today I'll make my usual 90 minute daily visit to the gym, and my home necessitates that I go up and down stairs (13 of them) about 12 times a day. It was just that gosh-dang hill!!!

So, what you say it likely very true -- it's not my physical shape, it must be the pm. My doctors will be very responsive once they receive the question today. I'll post a response.

Things that discourage me about this are always eased by good people on this site. Thanks.



by Doris Jean - 2019-10-15 14:05:10


I am always interested in your comments and always informative. What did the tech and cardiologist do after your treadmill test? My husband's cardio doc is saying for him to increase his stamina. Did they change your settings?

going uphill

by JWren - 2019-11-04 19:04:31

I am 70 and with Medtronics PM since December.  I have been a very active person and walking was the first thing I did. 4-6 miles regularly. I had the same problem going uphill adn checking the HR monitor I notice that my HR was dropping as I went uphill-just the opposite of what you want.  This is due to the motion sensor in the device.  You walk a bit slower going uphill, so the motion sensor thinks you don't need as much HR.

Multiple adjustments, with the device tech and the EP on the phone with Medtronics has made it work much better for me.  I don't know exactly what they did.  I walked across the Grand Canyon in under 10 hours in September so in many ways I'm not doing to bad.  The rate response does not work well at all for swimming which is important to me.  Medtronics is not the best choice for active people.

Thank you

by Heartthrob - 2019-11-05 10:16:34

Jwren, very interesting input.  My device is Medtronic. 

However, with some practice these past few days I've not felt myself to be out of breath as I was that one day. But I'll keep your advisory in mind.

Walked across the Grand Canyon! Stellar.

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