Athletes with pacemakers

Hi everyone!

  I got a pacemaker implanted on July 30, 2016 and have had a heck of a time getting back to ANY activity.  I'm a runner, so this has been really difficult for me.  I have been looking into this issue and found an interesting article that talks about settings for pacemakers for athletes (specifically long distance runners), but I think it must apply to many others.  Please check it out and I'd love to hear about your success in programming your little ticker!!

Article here:





by Tracey_E - 2016-10-10 22:12:35

Why did you get your pacer? Settings can make a HUGE difference in our ability to be active. It's common for them to send us home with standard settings, a good guess. Everyone is different, and the average paced patient is not athletic so it's perfectly normal to take a few tries to get it fine tuned. 

answer to ur question

by AnninAz - 2016-10-10 23:28:00

I got a pacemaker due to brachichardia.  My atrial chamber was not always getting the signal to pump and I was passing out with any sort of activity.  When I got to ER my bpm was down in the 30s.  Now I'm paced mostly atrially 80 to 12% and ventrically only 2.5 to 5% of time.


by IAN MC - 2016-10-11 11:33:58

Thanks for drawing our attention to this study. I must say though that I can't work out why it was done.

I'm not sure that there was any need to prove that long distance running is safe if you have a PM  . This is now well accepted and a study with only 9 patients doesn't prove much anyway.

You sound as though , like me, that you have Sick Sinus Syndrome . It seems that only one of the patients in the study had SSS and he/she was the only one who struggled with running.

SSS is often accompanied by chronotropic incompetence which means that your heart rate doesn't go up the way it should when you exercise. You are then dependent on the Rate Response feature of your PM . This is only as good as the sensor in the PM which detects when you are exercising . This study has a tiny reference to this in the text when it says " Cardiologists should be aware of the patient's wishes and select the sensor according to the sport requirement " 

Interestingly the paper also states that " Interval sports " ( I assume this means sports such as tennis / football  / baseball ) are OK with an activity sensor which just detects upper body movement . This is the type of sensor which Medtronic uses in its PMs.

It goes on to say that running and cycling need a different type of rate response sensor which detects increased breathing.  Surprisingly Medtronic sponsored this  study which is virtually stating that Medtronic pacemakers are not ideal for runners and cyclists who suffer from chronotropic incompetence.

I see that, like me, you have a Medtronic PM . Are you running as well as you were before ?  If not, It is just possible that you need Rate Response turning on or adjusting but there may be other factors.  I suggest that you keep on returning to whoever adjusts your PM settings until you feel happy.  I was a real pest in my PM clinic , I had RR turned off, turned on , had almost every combination of sensitivity setting and had maximum tracking rates and sensor rates changed.

I am now reluctantly accepting that this is as good as it gets with the limitations of a Medtronic pacemaker.

Best of luck


Running with my PM.

by AddieJ - 2016-10-23 13:05:34

I am an old (69) marathon runner.  I'm not interested in setting any records, which is a good thing since that would be impossible though I do win my age group usually :0).  I just want to keep running and I love the challenge.  I had SSS and on good days could run ok, but on bad days.....well you know how bradycardia makes you feel.....lead legs, no breath, dizzy.  I got a single lead pacemaker. I no longer have those really scary dizzy almost black outs but still feel palpitations and a little weird  from time to time but SO much better.  It took me almost 15 years to convince anyone that I thought my heart was stopping.  I got perscribed antidepressants and inhalers, etc., but I'm an older woman and doctors don't listen too good to us.  A heart monitor finally proved it beyond their doubts with stoppages were regularly occurring sometimes up to ten seconds at a time and I finally got the PM Feb. '16.   Back to running now but if I push it I lose my breath....I mean I lose it...I can't take another step.  Or if I go too long....I lose it.  I did seven miles yesterday thinking I was home free, then I just had to stop numerous times in the last mile.  If I start out too fast I am done in one mile sometimes.  Are my running days over????  Should I try to push through....though I really, really cannot. My doctor, an electro physiologist at MDAnderson where my indolent leukemia is treated thinks I am foolish and silly.  He stated when I told him my breathing was difficult after insertion, though it got better after a month (a common complaint I found out later), "well do you want me to just take it out if you are unhappy?"  I swear I am as nice and as solitious as I can be because I know how docs view us older ladies.  I wish I could talk to someone before I give up my lifelong hobby of running, which I feel has always done me more good than harm health wise.  Thank anyone out there for reading.  


by AnninAz - 2016-10-24 13:02:18

OMG -- YES!!  Unfortunately, I know EXACTLY how you feel!  My solution (that I'm currently working through) is to get a new doctor.  I mean, COME ON!!  I suffered for a month while I thought I was going to die AFTER I had the pacemaker put in!  My activity level went lower and lower and NO ONE would listen to me!!  Well, I've got to find a doctor that DOES listen.  I don't deny this one saved my life and did a good job inserting the little ticker, but quality of life must go on!  I guess I recommend the same for you.  Who needs such smarta$$ remarks when you just want to get back to life as usual!!  We gotta stand up for ourselves and get back to living!  Hang in there, sister!  Thoughts and prayers go to you!

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