Running with (through, despite) Heart Disease

Eight years ago (2008-9), I experienced three separate incidents of Cardiac Arrest. Not to be confused with a Heart Attack.

Cardiac Arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood.

Heart Attack is from a blockage to the blood flow that feeds the heart (if severe enough, a Heart Attack can lead to Cardiac Arrest).

Oddly, it was body weight compression on the left side of my chest that caused my heart to stop beating. I did not figure out that this was the trigger until the third time it happened. Now I know and no longer even sleep on my left side anymore.

The first time it happened, was while doing some plumbing work and being all scrunched up on the floor with my left arm under my chest. The second time happened when squeezing through a fence; again compressing my left arm into my left side of my chest. The third time it happened was while showing off doing a Half Flag Maneuver on a vertical pole at a play ground. Similar but not exactly like the picture below.

Flag Position that Triggered Cardiac Arrest

Flag Position that Triggered Cardiac Arrest

It was like flipping a switch or pressing a nerve. The third time there was no question what the trigger was. Before blacking out, I had long enough to experience that elation of solving the difficult puzzle of what caused these incidents and then berate myself for my stupidity.

You would think that when your heart stops you have a few minutes to sort things out before the lights go out – kind of like holding your breath till you pass out from lack of oxygen. But no. Once the heart stops beating, blood immediately stops circulating. No oxygen is brought to the cells and no waste products are removed. Unconsciousness comes very quickly as the body just seizes up. Within seconds my extremities were cramping/contracting and my vision was disappearing from the outside in (tunnel vision). Blackout grabs you pretty darn quick; within seconds not minutes.

If the heart doesn’t get quickly defibrillated and restarted, death follows soon after.

Profound Final Thoughts – No

When faced with the immediate prospect of death, I did not have any profound final thoughts like the flash of my entire life before my eyes. My thoughts were more geared toward the practical concerning the immediate situation. The first time it happened was just utter confusion and questioning what was happening. The second time I wondered if and when someone would find my body way out here by this fence. And as I already said, the third episode left me elated at identifying the trigger but feeling stupid for putting myself through this again.

Progressive Heart Problems

My heart abnormalities go back many years before I cardiac arrested. My first symptoms I noticed back in the early 1990’s. They consisted of arrhythmias such as skipped beats, ectopic beats, and bradycardia. It caused concern, so I went to a doctor and had an EKG. The doc said I was in good shape and these type of heart rhythm abnormalities were not serious and are common with people that are in good cardio vascular shape. Perhaps, but looking back, that was probably bad advice. Fast forward 15 years to 2008 and I nearly die thrice.

Medical Industry is Sanctioned Organized Crime

So back to the doctors I go. This time, (2009) for extensive testing and a stress EKG. That is a whole story unto itself. The minute you step into a hospital it is like writing a blank check. The medical industry is like organized crime – a trifecta of cooperative veiled corruption between government, insurance and care providers. You cannot shop around and get competitive price quotes. I could get a price quote if I wanted to partake in medical tourism and go to Costa Rica or India or Mexico. The going rate for going to Costa Rica or India for what I wanted was about $1500 and that includes airfare and lodging! At the time, Mexico was about half that, but I have already been there and have no desire to see that pit again. If I could get the same tests done locally for under $1500, I would stick around and avoid the inconvenience of international travel.

It was impossible to get a written quote or estimate, but I did get a verbal estimate of $330.00 so that sounded good. So I choose the local option. After a lengthy and exhaustive testing process and getting really sick afterwards, probably from some nasty bug floating around the hospital, I really didn’t learn anything and no explanation was given for why pressure on the left side of my chest would trigger cardiac arrest. And more importantly no advice what to do, other than take some drugs and get a defibrillator implanted.

And as it turned out, that quote for $330 dollars was for only one bill. Eventually, I received a total of five separate bills. Each around $330 dollars for a total cost over $1600. Seems every department at the hospital gets to bill you – lab, materials, administration, tech, doctor… And the minimum bill must be around $300. Did they focus or market test that amount or something? It is Criminal.

Self Treatment

The reason I am writing this post is to detail some of the things I did to self treat my heart disease. Time is our most valuable resource. So taking the time to write this is my way of giving something of value to whoever may stumble upon this. If it only helps one person to improve their health, it is worth it. The most popular posts on this Blog happen to be ones that are only tangentially related to the Bridger Ridge Run such as:

Back in the early 1990’s after my first concern about heart troubles and upon not getting any helpful direction from my doctor, I did a bit of research and became interested in Chelation Therapy. It is a series of IV treatments approved for treating lead poisoning, but has the side effect of improving vascular and heart health. At the time, the only option was seeing a Doctor up in White Sulphur Springs who has long since retired. It is a low risk treatment with little or no negative side effects so it is a good first line choice for treating heart disease. Just do not expect any insurance company to cover this treatment option.

After my experience with Cardiac Arrest in 2008 I again utilized a series of Chelation Therapy as a treatment option. This time from a local Doctor in Bozeman who has also since retired. In addition to Chelation Therapy, I experimented with mineral supplements. It became apparent, that as long as I was consistent with supplementing with Magnesium my heart arrhythmias were held in check.

Managing Heart Arrhythmias with Magnesium

From 2008 until this year, I consistently supplemented with Magnesium Citrate and or Magnesium Glycinate. For me, 600mgs per day keep the Arrhythmias away. A rule of thumb is 500mg or a half of gram of Magnesium per 100 lbs of body weight per day.

Until this spring, I thought I was managing my heart problems. After my three episodes of cardiac arrest and flirting with death back in 2008 I experienced no symptoms as long as I took my Magnesium. But this Spring, things took a sudden turn for the worse. I spiraled into Class IV Cardiac Failure on the popular NYHA (New York Heart Associate) scale of functional classes.

Keep on Running or Suffer the Consequences

Maybe Bob Hayes is right:

When I stop running, that will be the end of me

In the fall of 2015, I quit running. Feet problems such as bone spurs, made it just too painful to enjoy running anymore.

Bone Spurs, Left Foot Worse

Multiple Painful Bone Spurs

After 6 months of no running I started experiencing angina (chest pain) and more sensitivity to pressure on the left side of my chest. My symptoms progressed through the 4 stages from no symptoms even under exertion to the Class IV level of heart failure of symptoms at rest accompanied with an “Impending Sense of Doom”.

There are many causes of heart disease. Congenital, trauma, infection, stress, metabolic… Specialists told me that my heart problems are electrical or neurological. Perhaps it was triggered by damage from repeated trauma. Over the years I’ve had more blows to the chest resulting in broken ribs than I care to remember. In addition, a decade of competitive freestyle skiing back in my youth long before helmets were common resulted in numerous incidents of head trauma and concussions. Unfortunately, I also suffer from many of the symptoms associated with neurological damage now labeled as CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

4 Months Going from Stage IV Cardiac Failure to finishing my 20th Bridger Ridge Run

An EKG in April 2016 was so scary that the tech performing it was a bit panicked and not sure exactly what to do with me. “Left Ventricle Dysfunction. Advanced Heart Disease immediate threat to life.” Perhaps that Impending Sense of Doom was not without merit!What to do now.

Abnormal EKG April 2016

Abnormal EKG April 2016

Compare to a typical idealized healthy EKG in the picture below.

Sample EKG Normal

Illustration of Normal EKG

The standard of care for heart failure or heart disease is to treat the symptoms with surgery, drugs and use of implanted devices such as pace makers and defibrillators. Or heart transplant as a last resort. Why can’t a damaged heart heal? Your body can heal when it gets a cut, or bruise or broken bone. Why can’t a damaged heart heal? If you provide the right nutrients, it seems logical the body will repair and heal. It is worth a try.

When researching doctors that had success reversing heart failure, the cardiologist Dr Sinatra and his success treating heart disease with nutrition attracted me.

The Awesome Foursome, Magnesium, coQ10, Carnitine, Ribose

Dr Sinatra recommends four nutrients he calls the awesome foursome. It is worth a try and inexpensive compared to the standard of care of traditional medicine. So I gave it a go. Quality food is your best source of nutrition. The best food sources of these four nutrients are organ meats like liver and heart. So I started eating organ meats at least once a week.

Beef Heart

Beef Heart

It is simpler to take supplements and is more controllable so I also supplemented. I was already taking Magnesium and added coQ10, Carnatine and Ribose on a consistent daily basis.

In addition to 600 mg of Magnesium, I added 5 grams of Ribose, 1 gram of Carnatine and 200 mg of coQ10 to my morning nutrients. Within weeks my heart failure symptoms started subsiding. My EKG showed less dysfunction. Below is a vastly improved EKG from August after the Bridge Ridge Run.

EKG August 2016

EKG August 2016

In April, I had real doubts I would do my 20th Ridge Run this summer. I signed up with fear and trepidation. Minimal training and consistent treatment of my heart disease with nutrition resulting in setting what I called my “Off the Couch” PR. My goal was run 4:30 and break my previous off the couch PR set in 2006 and 2007 when I could not train and had to do the Ridge Run in a rigid splint. After doing a 4:15 in the 2016 Ridge Run, I was relieved and satisfied and in awe of the miraculous healing potential of the human body.

More to come…


About Bridger Ridge Run

The Bridger Ridge Run blog is an information portal for all those seeking to learn more about the Bridger Ridge Run event held every second Saturday of August in Bozeman Montana. This blog contains notifications about important registration dates and deadlines, history of the event, training advice and other stories and entertaining tidbits of information about the Bridger Ridge Run.
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