Shortness of breath just going up stairs or walking

I have had a pacemaker for 10 years because of complete heart block. I just received my second one last July. When I tell my doctor about shortness of breath and weakness in my legs going up stairs or just taking a walk he tells me my pacemaker is working. Does anyone else have these issues?



by Tracey_E - 2023-04-03 13:17:37

Stairs are a challenge for many of us. Was it a problem before getting your newest one? The settings may be different on this one. Working doesn't necessarily mean the settings are just right for your needs.

Sometimes new ones don't have the same settings as the old one so they can't make it exactly the same, or sometimes they don't look closely enough at the old settings to match it on the new device. I would push harder.

Sounds like doc is not listening to you

by Persephone - 2023-04-03 13:17:44

Hi G-ma - keep pushing your medical team to answer your questions; perhaps setting adjustments would help you feel better. You are not feeling as well with the new device as you did with the old device, correct? Keep the pressure on them to help you.

Yes, I did have continuing symptoms after receiving my first PM 5 years ago, despite being told that "the PM is working fine". Some setting adjustments done during a treadmill stress test helped me feel dramatically better during exercise and activities of daily life.

Hope you're feeling better soon!

Shortness of breath

by Grandma5 - 2023-04-03 13:47:10

Thank you. This has been an ongoing problem since the beginning. I'm thinking of getting a second opinion.


by Tracey_E - 2023-04-03 16:50:18

I can work out an hour a day and finish a half marathon and breeze through a stress test, but going up the stairs still leaves me huffing and puffing. It has more to do with getting our mass up against gravity and less with settings or fitness level. By the time our body catches on that we are exerting, we are already at the top. 


by AgentX86 - 2023-04-03 22:58:27

Shortness of breath is a problem with rate response, in general.  There really isn't good way to solve the problem, though minute ventilation probably comes the closest.

The problem with accelerometer based RR is that it's tuned for walking, or perhapd running.  In either case, the pacemaker is sensing footfalls.  It then raises the heart rate to increase blood oxygen.  The PM is usually tuned for this operation.

The problem with stairs is that the feet are moving at, perhaps, a slow walk rate, when the body is demanding even more oxygen because it's walking up stairs. RR can't sense the differemce.

SOB and weakness on walking

by Rch - 2023-04-04 01:54:33

Please check your radial pulse once you are  upstairs or after 6 minute brisk walk. If it's still around the basal rate or there about, consult your device tech or EP. If the pulse rate is high and you still feel short of breath and weak, please consult your Device tech or EP first and then your PCP to r/o other causes for your symptoms! 

SOB when walking

by Gotrhythm - 2023-04-05 13:03:46

As ofhers have said, SOB on stairs is all too common for pacemaker recipients who have heart block, even so, we must not overlook SOB when walking. That's different, and to my mind, more significant. 

When the doctor tells you, your pacemaker is working, all he is saying is that your pacemaker is doing exactly what it is programmed to do. But have the pacemaker's settings been programmed to be right for you? That's the question that has yet to be answered. 

Last October, I also received my second pacemaker. I can tell you from experience, that even though the settings might be exactly the same, how you feel with the new pacemaker can be very different. The old settings don't always work the same on a new pacemaker.

I had to go back twice, despite being repeatedly assured that no my symptoms could not be associated with the new pacemaker because the settings were just the same, to get my settings changed to what I need now.

Being short of breath can have many causes. The easiest one to check out is the pacemaker settings. Don't be shy about insisting that some change in the settings be tried, at least as an experiment to see if the SOB problem can be helped. 



Shortness of breath

by Grandma5 - 2023-04-05 16:36:12

Thank you for all of the suggestions, I appreciate the advice.

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