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2336 Views 6 Replies Latest reply: Mar 25, 2012 10:53 AM by JamesJohnsonLMT
kimc921 Pro 108 posts since
Apr 15, 2009
Currently Being Moderated

Jan 7, 2012 8:50 AM

Left atrial enlargement concerns

Recently I had an EKG done at a health fair.  It said I had Left Atrial Enlargement, and now I'm wondering if I should see a dr. for it.  Heart disease runs in my family, but I've never been obese and don't have high blood pressure...yet; sometimes my bp is borderline.  I've been running for 3 years, and my stamina doesn't seem to be where I think it should be at this point, and I'm wondering if this "potential" heart issue could be the reason.  Also, occasionally I will feel a "flutter" in my chest, and then I have the urge to cough once.  Someone I work with said they had heard  this is the heart's way of "resetting" itself.


The flutter has never once happened on a run or during any kind of exercise, it usually occurs when I'm sitting and doing nothing.  I have never fainted or been ill during or after a run.  I recently bought a heart monitor watch and even on what most people would consider an "easy" run, my hr gets up in the 90+% range.  It worries me that I may be doing more damage to my heart than good.


I'm 44, 5'8", and weigh about 150 lbs.


Any insights, experiences and advice would be most welcome.  Thank you!

"Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started."

       -- Steve Prefontaine

One more breath, one more step, one more mile, FINISH LINE!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,282 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Mar 25, 2012 10:55 AM (in response to kimc921)
    Re: Left atrial enlargement concerns

    Thank you for posting this. The prevalence of heart disease in your family, and the feeling that you lack stamina at (what "most people" or more importantly, you consider to be) an easy pace, are causes for concern, especially if you have been red-lining your heart rate during these jogs. First, you should confirm that this HR reading is accurate by taking a manual measurement on your carotid artery under your chin after some running, and compare it to what your monitor says.


    Second, read the NIH link (bottom) to see how difficult it can be to accurately diagnose from an EKG. The truth could range from right on, to way off in either direction. There could be no problem due to BP influenced readings, or more problems than can be stated with great confidence based on the algorithms applied to your EKG data. That is, it could be better or worse, but your family history and gut instincts tip the scales in favor of further diagnosis.


    In the meantime, few would argue that a little exercise is going to hurt you in view of your three year history as stated. However, the real value of a heart monitor is not simply to note, but to dictate the intensity at which you train. You may have heard by now that sustained high-intensity training, such as done by elite marathoners, is very likely to have negative effects on the left side of the heart, if sustained past middle age. That alone is enough to warrant a medical clearance going forward, but it is also helpful to note that low intensity training appears to have a mitigating effect on this trend. Many a "plateaued" or exhausted athlete has found that low intensity training can actually improve stamina better than continuing to train normally, or better than rest alone. It can even reverse the effects of overtraining.


    This is not to say you have overtrained by "reasonable" standards, but that you may have been overtraining all along with respect to your medical history, and that there is a better path than suspending training altogether. As you seek further medical advice, it should not hurt to put your HR monitor to good use by sticking to no more than 70% of your max HR, which can be calculated (very roughly) by taking 70% of (220 minus your age), or a little over 120 in your case. I know that sounds extremely slow, but that is exactly what you need to do to avoid making things worse at this point, and to possibly make them better. Yes, I know that may mean walking for now, but watch that change!


    Please read this Pubmed link very carefully and print it for your doctor. While the Health Fair encounter was a good wake-up call, it is important to make sure there is no good or bad news left out...


  • Jasko123 Legend 461 posts since
    Apr 18, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Jan 7, 2012 2:56 PM (in response to kimc921)
    Left atrial enlargement concerns

    I have experienced heart flutters for years, but it is important to determine the source because there is a literal laundry list of potential explanations ranging from simple diet issues to serious underlying medical issues.  It is not uncommon for symptoms to occur long after exercise, so I would really encourage you to seek the advice of a professional (cardiologist) to check out everything.  It just is not worth the risk, and again, it may be something easily addressed.  Mine, for example, was traced to medications and thyroid problems. 

    Wishing you all the best.

  • gotanishiki Amateur 9 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Jan 8, 2012 10:57 AM (in response to kimc921)
    Left atrial enlargement concerns

    Good decision.    Many things can cause atrial enlargement.    Sounds like you are having episodes of  paroxysmal arrythmia; could very well be related.

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,282 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Mar 25, 2012 10:53 AM (in response to kimc921)
    Left atrial enlargement concerns

    Broke your toe!!!  At least you got that PR before it happened!


    Hmm.. Broken toe... Maybe that's providential. 84 days straight, sheesh. Now's your chance to take it easy kimc921, and nobody can call you a slouch for doing so!


    Any way, your story reminds me of something I commented about in another post. There is such faith among the populace in test results that the credibility alone is a currency worth more than gold. I'm convinced that the general accuracy of many tests, whether or not the results of the test in question are actually valid,  is sometimes used as a smokescreen for setting up appointments, with the test as the carrot and fear as the stick. I've seen it happen many times. Science is a gift to free enterprise, but please, take a break anyway!  Broken toe.. You're starting to worry me!

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