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Bicuspid Aortic Valve and Exercise

I am a 42  year old female, 120 lbs (usually 112 - 115 lbs - unfortunately starting with the midlife weight gain), 5' 5", and normally heathy except for a congenital bicuspid aortic valve.  My last echo (2 years ago) showed that my stage 1 regurgitation has not changed.  I am due for another echo in a couple of months.  I had blood tests done in the last week and found out my thyroid function is perfect, but I am anemic and taking 3 - 300 mg of ferrogluc .

My exercise status is sedentary and I would like to start exercising, but I get palpitations from exercise.  I tried my daughter's eliptical trainer and only got 4 minutes into the easiest setting and my heart was racing and flopping all over the place.  I did not have any pain or faintness.  I have always been afraid to exercise due to palpitations, but really want to exercise for my health.  For years I noticed that walking up hills, or walking into the wind, etc. cause me to have a fast heart rate and palpitations.  I am so afraid to exercise.  I want to exercise for my health and to help lose a few pounds.  Friends of mine are using Tony Little's Gazelle and are losing a lot of weight. I would like to use it too, but....

Can I exercise safely?  Are the palpitations a sign that I shouldn't exercise or are a problem?

Are there tests to make sure the palpitations are not dangerous or cause any problems while exercising?

If I can exercise, what kinds should I do and how strenuous an exercise can I do?  Also, can I weight train?  I tried lifting weights but they too cause palpitations.
3 Responses
Avatar universal
I am a 43 yr old male with a diagnosed bicuspid valve only found about almost 7 yrs ago by what was determined to be more or less a panic attack. They did find however, that I had an irregular heart beat, a Split S3 something or another. While in the hospital, the cardiologist on duty who I had not met, paraded his interns into my room to give them a chance to hear the rare irregular heartbeat of an Split S3 whatever. After a stress test and echocardiogram, all I knew was that I was 36 and found out I had a rare and kind of unique irregular heartbeat and that was all, or so I thought. That was in 2007. Upon seeing commercials about talking to your Dr. regularly with those with irregular heartbeat, I followed up with my Dr. who scheduled me for an echocardiogram in 2010. I had been relatively sedentary, nowhere nearly as active as I had been, but approaching 40, I felt the urge to start running again ( as I had been just short of being a world class runner, or at least dreams of participating in the Olympics as I had run a 3:52 1500m, later won a national cross country team championship and was an all American).

In 2011, my new primary physician wanted to perform another echocardiogram, which seemed odd as I had one done the year before. She then told me I had a congenital bicuspid heart valve defect. So the question was whether running, the way I do, would be beneficial or detrimental, which she didn't know. But we had had 2 previous echoes to serve as baseline comparison as I had now been training for approximately 1 yr. After my third echo, results revealed that my heart had grown in muscle similar to the biceps growing after one yr. of training, and most importantly, we had the scientific proof that my heart function had significantly improved. My Dr. had agreed to allow me to keep training in the next 2 echoes, more positive results changed my yearly echocardiogram along with showing no signs of being symptomatic in any way from every year to every 2 years.

I am not a Dr. nor a cardiologist, but I am a personal trainer with several certifications along with a USA Track & Field certified coach, and I am probably the exception more than the rule, but I know that I too had experienced instances or cases where my heart would skip a beat so much so that I could noticeably feel it and on a few occasions would experience palpitations or brief moments of tachycardia, nowhere near the incidence which placed me in the hospital in 2007, but significant enough being offered a special heart monitoring device I could wear 24/7 to catch those events.

After starting my training, I have not experienced anymore incidences of brief tachycardia and I am now running about 60 miles a week with the thought of running a marathon. I too am only 5'5 weighing about 115, which is about my normal weight for my thin structure. I do very little weight lifting, but I do strength training as it is much more beneficial for the running that I do.

If I was in your shoes, the desire to get healthy is a great thing and can be very beneficial in more ways than one. However, I am uninformed with your condition, present circumstances and other contributing factors, so I am in no position to give you advice or to suggest what you should do. The one piece of advice I can safely say is to talk to your Dr.'s, become more educated with your condition, learn to ask questions, become involved in your healthcare, don't stay on the sidelines, but become actively involved in your care, after all, who else could be your best advocate but you. You would be surprised at what I have not been told and what I have been told and the only way I was able to find out was by asking, researching and asking again.

I wish you the best.
329165 tn?1515475590
Hi there,

I really enjoyed reading your post and being a personal trainer and a fellow heart-valve patient, you might be able to help me:

Long story short:  I am female and 38yrs old and had a congenital defect on mitral valve repaired during 2008.  Before my op I used to exercise 4 times a week and considered myself fit.  Then I went into heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and had my OHS.

Since the op I could never get my stamina back but about a month ago I joined the gym again and I now exercise 4 times a week.

I do 1km on a treadmill (average speed 5) and I do some weights, sit-ups without any major issues, but I struggle with fast heart rate and palpitations (160+) after I've done the 1km on the rower!  My legs feel like jello afterwards and it takes a few minutes before I can actually stand up.  I can not do more than 200m on the spin bike as I get the same effect.

It's discouraging as I want to do some cardio too and wouldn't mind losing some weight.  I am 5'5 and 130lbs.

Should I skip the cardio and just accept that I don't have a normal heart? should I be concerned about the symptoms and stop exercising?
Avatar universal
Smiley, it sounds as though you need to have a serious talk with your cardiologist.  Really, a detailed conversation with someone who knows your heart and your history.  

Anonymous  lay people like us are in no position to advise you, with your complicated medical issues.

Getting fit is a wonderful wish, but competent advice is sometimes necessary.
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