heart pacemaker

i'm female 52 been running for fitness for about 10 years. I've had a few times when i noticed my resting heart rate had dipped to 32 and after discussing with a dr friend went along to the cardiologists who have suggested i will need a pacemaker fitted eventually when my symptoms get more troublesome (I've had bit of chest tightness dizzy spells weight gain breathlessness)
my question is will i still be able to continue running with a pacemaker does anyone out there have any experience of this i would like a bit of reassurance medics these days are very much into letting patients make their own informed choices about treatments so I'm trying to find out before i commit to invasive procedures that will change my lifestyle....if my heart needs help it needs help but i would like to know what to expect.
i should of asked all this at the apt but i went on my own and when told i was quite shocked as i just thought i was super fit so i forgot to ask all the right questions and won't have follow up now until october after a barrage of tests are completed.
appreciate anyone with any personal experience to answer


  • Try this website for advice - I had viral myocarditis last year and was directed here.  I also contacted the British Heart Foundation and found that they were extremely helpful.

    I do HR training, so wear a HRM all the time which is how I was able to identify my problem (apart from feeling the physical symptoms).

    If you don't already use a HRM, it might be worth thinking about it.

    Re the appointment, I'd advise doing some research beforehand about the condition, writing down a list of questions and taking them with you, that way you won't forget to ask anything.  I got very little help, advice or answers from my GP or the cardiologists that I saw, in the end, it was the BHF who were most helplful.

    Good luck.

  • thanks so much for the reply,
    yes i already use a HRM which is how i knew that my pulse rate was low
    you're right about the gp's and dr's i am an insider in the medical profession so i know the culture well i.e. that the patient makes their own decisions etc but its not really very helpful and i found myself with big gaps in my knowledge...so that culture of patient ownership is ok for people like us who can research and find out its a worry that people less able mentally or physically able to do online research etc can find out for themselves. but i forgot completely about BHF i will pursue that thanks
    how are you feeling now? are you managing to get out running? hope you are better and thank you again for taking the time to reply
  • Hi Tutengil 

    Providing there are no underlying health problems you should be able to continue running with no problems. Tennis, badminton, squash, swimming, cycling, skating, netball, handball and suchlike are all O.K. Contact sport such as rugby, boxing, judo, wrestling, football would be discouraged due to the possibility of damage to the pacemaker or the fitting of same. It is the patient's risk. 

    The pacemaker is robust but it is in your best interests to treat it with some respect. Certainly in non contact sports you might still experience a heavy fall e.g. trip while running, fall off your bike but such are accidents not a repetitive part of the sport. Any accidents, sports or otherwise, that might affect the pacemaker should be followed up by a check. The pacemaker will allow for normal increased heartbeat and almost normal lifestyle.

    Good luck

  • thank you martenkay
    thats very very helpful, its so reassuring to know that people can help and advise and thats whats so brill about runners world we're all in this together we're all runners and its great people care enough to help each other
    i have been checking out the two websites from Jeepers there is lots of info there too I've got lots of reading to do and decisions to make........
  • Sorry, haven't had time to post reply, but will do tomorrow.

  • I've been doing HR training for a few years, so when this occurred, knew immediately that something was wrong as apart from the physical symptoms (breathlessness, chestpain, thumping HR etc) my RHR was up by about 15 - 20bpm, my blood pressure was much higher than normal (higher even than when pregnant when I had pre-eclampsia) and when attempting to run, my HRs were off the scale.  I ended up in A + E over Christmas (999 call) where I was told that it was cardiac-related and as I wasn't actually having a heart attack, I'd need to go back to my GP.

    My GP disagreed, diagnosing it as asthma and ignoring my training history - surprisingly enough, the treatment didn't make me any better!  Eventually, I managed to arrange to have a scan which  showed the physical damage to the heart.  The technician (female, similar age to me, 50's) was very helpful, thought that she knew what was going on, but to be sure, called in a cardiologist - again, female in her 50's .  She agreed with the diagnosis and explained it to me.  The cardiologist felt that had I been a male presenting with these symptoms, then I would have been taken more seriously and possibly admitted to hospital where I could have been treated more aggressively, so reducing the problem and the damage. 

    At that stage, they couldn't tell whether the damage was permanent, luckily it wasn't.  However, it was a year before I was able to get back to running.  There was no treatment other than rest, so I stopped everything and just sat around, resting - well, in as much as you can with two children.  The one thing that they did comment on was that my heart was much more "fit" than that of a non-exerciser, but while a good thing, it had skewed the results.  

    It has left me oddly vulnerable (germwise) and in a way that I never was before.  I'd never had any form of breathing difficulties or lung problems at all until I picked this up.  I had just started running again in December 2011 and was preparing to start mara training in January when I picked up a bug from my nephew (possibly the one who gave me the virus that caused the myocarditis) - I've been off these last two months, diagnosed two weeks ago with pneumonia.   

    But, in the famous saying "I'll be back"! 

  • But tutengil is saying her resting heart rate has "dipped" (not sure if this means constant or occasional) to 32, not risen?

    I thought a resting heart rate of 32 bpm was something to be desired and trained for? I know when I was much fitter 3 years ago my resting heart rate was 43 bpm, and assumed it was because i'd worked hard at it?!

  • Yes, I know, I read and understood that - the OP's is a totally different problem from the one that I had, I was simply illustrating the attention (or, more accurately, lack of) from the general medical professional when dealing with someone who has some form of cardiac problem yet wishes to continue exercising.

    All HRs are individual so there's nothing to be gained by comparing one persons' with another.  I understand it that the OP's RHR has dipped to a sufficiently low level to cause concern (in relation to the "normal" RHR).   When fit, my RHR drops around 5bpm as my heart is more efficient at pumping the blood around the body, so requires less bpm to achieve this.  If mine were to drop much below this, then I too would wonder if I had a problem.

  • If you have to have a cardiac pacemaker installed, make sure they put one of the new MRI compatible ones in! Seems pointless excluding yourself from ever having an MR scan in the future when the technology exists now.

  • yep heart rate more or less at 32-38 at rest....i was like jeepers i was doing the same training runs and finding it all a bit difficult and would have to rest after eating drinking showering on return from long runs which wasn't normal for me this got worst over a year probably. i just thought my age maybe or putting on a few lbs in weight but i nearly gave up running because long short medium what ever run seemed to be very very taxing and i have been constantly tired especially first thing in the mornings. i went to gp with chest discomfort who diagnosed inflamed cartilage in my sternum.
    it was all a bit vague and i didn't really tie it altogether until talking to a dr friend who said a fit persons HR should probably be 45-50 at rest so he felt that 35 was too low and asked me had i felt tired/ breathless/ faint/dizzy or had any chest pain? i realised yes i had a few symptoms so took myself off for tests. ECG confirmed a beat of 35, even tho i was a bit anxious that day!!!!!!
    i didn't realise there were any pacemakers compatible with MRI scanning just thought pacemaker would have to be turned off and recalibrated after MRI if it was an real emergency?
    yes HR is an individual thing lots of athletes have lower with no problem but mine is low because of some electrical misfiring so guess the pacemaker will have to do it for me..
    mechanical help for fitness it could catch on??????????
  • I am part way through diagnosis for a heart arrythmia problem, one of the effects of which is a slow resting heart rate or bradycardia to use the technical term.  Anybody that trains constantly will see a change in their heart rate but the doctors do sit up when it goes below 40 because of the dizzy spells or even fainting that can occur.  If your heart rate increases with exercise then it could be something like a minor heart block causing it, an electrical problem as somebody said.  If your heart rate doesn't increase  with exercise then you do have a problem.  Pacemakers are one of the possible ways of treating but I would look into the whole thing first to make sure.  I am at the cardiologist this Friday so will let you know if I learn more.
  • thanks yes let me know how you get on
  • I have been diagnosed with having a right bundle branch block which fortunately won't need any treatment in the forseeable future, but I will forever have an ecg that at first glance to an inexperienced eye i.e. not a cardiologist appear to be a problem.

    Woth looking at this site http://www.cardiacathletes.org.uk/forums/index.php if you want to get some great information from other people who have had all sorts of heart operations, pacemakers, arrythmias etc. but still want to exercise.

  • I only started running last year (working on Triathlons) but I had my first Pacemaker fitted 10 years ago.


    My cardiologist has asked me not to take up Parachuting or Scuba diving, contact sprots are also not advised. Getting knocked on the PM can be extremely uncomfortable and often results in swearing!

    I have had to go back to the hospital after Mountainbike crashes, kitesurfing incidents, smaking myself against a mountain when a handhold broke off...i think they may get sick of me!!

    Running has proven to be great fun, the Pacemaker is keeping up well and the clinic are really happy for me to be involved in triathlons.


    Just listen to your body carefully!!

  • i've done my share of parachuting in my early years so dont feel the urge to rekindle that sport at my time of life now ha ha ha! 

    its very encouraging to hear that my sporting life is not finished because of bradycardia and i will continue to pursue fitness. i'm happy to just go out run and enjoy myself and yes you are so right its usually the body that lets you know what it dosent like too much so i do trust my instincts more and if i feel tired i cut back on the training and think tomorrow is another day.

    good luck with triathlon. if you're taking part in that i shouldnt really have any worries about having a pacemaker fitted in the future as its obviously surviving you putting it through its full ranges.........

  • For me it was the signal to sort myself out!! I was fat, smoked and drank too much, I got a chance to turn myself around and took it.

    I wouldn't worry, if you need one you will feel MUCH happier once it's fitted.

    Hoping to get to sub 7minute miles this year, climb a harder grade or two and maybe tackle Mont Blanc.

  • bloody hell i just want to stand up without feeling dizzy and go out running occasionally to let off steam......but i have to admire you... go get it!!!!!!

    ive got a review in december or sooner if i feel unwell but dont want to rush into this unless i really have to.

    i did everest base camp in 2009 probably the toughest thing mentally and physically i have ever done. its so good to have theses goals it keeps us sharp and focused on what we need to do to get ourselves there....in short its living life to the full!!!!!

  • Hi Tutengil, I am going to see a consultant on Tuesday 9th October, like you I am suffering dizzy spells when standing up after sitting.  I had a 24-h ECG this week and apparently my pulse rate is in the 20s when I am asleep.  I am a male 56 year old (nearly) I have been running at a moderate level (15-20 miles a week average) over 2-3 sessions a week for about 22 years.  They are almost certainly going to suggest a pacemaker.  How are you getting along?  Dave 

  • I'd just like to add a couple of comments as I have an ICD which includes a pacemaker. Firstly I have had a couple of bad falls since I had mine fitted, once tripping on a tree root on a wood trail and once on a hard path when I tripped on a manhole cover but in neither case did it do anything to my ICD. I've convinced myself that it is quite hard to actually directly impact the device falling over running.

    The other thing is that some pacemakers are better suited to running than others and the configuration can be quite tricky, in order to allow enough acceleration of your heart rate if say you suddenly hit a hill. The guy who runs the cardiacathletes website, called Lars, is a whizzo at this as he is a cardiac technician with a special interest in configuring pacemakers for runners so if anyone is going ahead with a fitting do get his advice  *before the model is decided upon!*. Even if you think, or have been told, that there isn't any choice of model.

  • hi dave, joe 

    getting along good at the moment will have a review in december so will see what they say ...thats good advice  about the guy on caridacathletes website thanks for that will do if they decide that i need one. symptoms have improved quite a lot i have reduced training quite a bit as i also had a knee injury from a fall and realise i feel better for not pushing myself so much. im not so dizzy and dont feel so tired either. there is my answer partly i think.....

    hope you got on ok dave and maybe think about cutting down training for a bit see if your symptoms improve also

    good luck


  • Thanks Tutengil and Joe.  I am hopefully seeing the Consultant tomorrow so all this information is very valuable, l have had a look at cardiacatheletes, and will have a longer look tonight.  

    Tutengil I hope things continue to improve for you.

    Regards Dave



  • Just wanted to join in the discussion and get as much info as possible to help me make a decision about getting a pacemaker fitted.  I'm 49, have been running for 10 years, around 30 miles per week until trained for London Marathon in 2011. Variety of symproms lead to get investigations having managed a very slow marathon.  HR was down to 31 iwth pauses on occasion of 5 seconds. 3 months rest and back up to 57 bpm but since retraining over last 10 months of so, cutting mileage to about 18 per week have dropped again to early 40s and symptoms.  Negotiated with cardiologist to decide in 6 months whether to give up running or have a pacemaker fitted. Has anyone taken the decision to have one and been able to comfortably continue running?  How long was the recovery? How has it impacted your life?  Would be so grateful for any info.


  • Cathy, I dealt with some of the questions in my earlier post. The process of putting the device in is nothing to worry about much, they do it under local anaesthetic/sedative and it doesn't take that long. You will have a scar a couple of inches long over your collarbone. That takes a week or two to heal up. Physically I find it a nuisance but my biggest issue is sleeping and it depends what position you usually sleep in - I used to sleep on my front and the device does tend to stick out slightly so I can't get comfortable and have to find another position to lie in. But some people seem to adjust ok.

    The big question to deal with is who is in control of your body, you or your consultant and his technician? Be prepared to be quite insistent it is configured as you wish and that if, say, it needs tweaking they must do it. I actually put this in writing in advance so it formed part of the consent to having it put in. Then I complained when they adjusted it without telling me!!

  • Hi Cathy, there is a scientific paper based on nine athletes with pacemakers fitted participating in the Amsterdam Marathon or half-marathon.  This paper clearly concludes that it is safe for most athletes with pacemakers to take part in long-distance running activities (eight these runners had previous long-distance experience, pre the fitting of a pacemaker).  The paper "Netherlands Heart Journal, Volume 12, Number 10, October 2004." can be found on the internet. It stresses the need for the choice of sensor(s) to allow for the activity level the patient wishes to participate in.  Joe Volcano has also previously referred to a website "cardiac athletes" www.cardiacathletes.com which has a lot of useful information too.

  • Hi Tutengil,

    I am now on the list for a pacemaker.  Now a 12-16 week wait unlees I get a cancellation. At least the dizziness has receeded recently, this seems to be stress related especially emotional stress causing my heart to go crazy.  I did a 14 mile run in the pouring rain a few weeks back, almost got hypothermia, completely knocked-out and went to bed for 24-hours I could not move.  Have you seen the Consultant yet?


  • Hi Cathy, Nothing to worry about having a pacemaker. I had one fitted in November 2011 in a 90-minute operation under local anaesthetic, no sedation (the medics prefer that as they need you to respond occasionally during the procedure), and home the same day. I was back running within 4 weeks and did my first 5k parkrun 6 weeks after the insertion. After running 3-4 times a week for nearly 30 years before the insertion, I was getting to the point where a flat 3-4 mile walk was leaving me exhausted. I can now run, swim and cycle as much and as hard as I like (or am capable of...).

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