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Meathead TV

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Mar 1, 2020
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Just a quick background, I'm a 26 year old male, I've been lifting weights since I was 16-17. I was diagnosed as a child with BAV and currently (without trying to butcher what the doc's have told) the heart is functioning great, there is small leakage and I have an aneurysm at approximately 4.7cm. So not too large to operate yet, according to my doctors.

I've been struggling for the past 10 years on how I can lift weights/train safely. As younger, I didn't really care, I lifted as hard and heavy as I wanted to to. But over the years I've become more and more concerned with my aorta rupturing and getting myself killed. Heavy squats, deadlifts, overhead presses I gave up on years ago and never really worked as much on them, as early on a doctor told me I should especially avoid those exercises. I've competed in bench press several times between 2013-2017 and unfortunately considering my condition, I'm pretty good at that. Which makes it hard even harder for me to give up on heavy lifting.

I do yearly check-ups with a cardiologist, getting MRI's and ultra's done regularly. Every time I ask the cardiologist, what are my limits when it comes to lifting weights? I've been told "don't lift more than 20 kilograms" (44 lbs, didn't specify exercise), "another time I was told I should just avoid maxing out", "anything over 10 reps is okay", "anything over 15 reps is okay", "have I considered playing golf?"

I've read everything on the subject that I can, but there is not a lot of clear cut data. So I understand why the doctors can't really give me clear answers. It's still extremely frustrating, as every time I go into a yearly check-up I basically leave with more questions then I went in with.

Has anyone here dealt with same questions and have you possibly found any answers?
 

leadville

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Hi Meathead, before & after my surgery i searched everywhere for some research to say i can lift heavy.
The short answer is you can't, i feel your frustration.

Given your aneurysm nobody will advise heavy lifting .
The 20kg is vague advise obviously you are very well trained , a 100kg bench may feel easy to you.

The main issue will be with holding your breath ( valsalva maneuver )

During your competitive BP the slight pause they make you do at the bottom may cause you
to hold your breath, that's the type of situation you should avoid.

with regards to 10 or 15 rep max the problem there is the 15th rep may be at your limit, it's then a similar
situation to a single max lift , i think rather than focus on numbers focus on perceived effort.

If i can do say 15 reps max i would stop at ~ 10
i would avoid single lifts
always breathe through every set and never breath hold
increase the volume load, if you usually do say 6 sets per body part then increase that to 10 sets but at 70% effort.

lifting is addictive and good for your health so keep it up but be clever about your training & health.

Pre surgery you need to be sensible 🦾
 

nobog

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Moderation is the key - to almost everything. I know a "number" of weight lifters, now in their 50's, that regret their time trying to out-do themselves.
 

AZ Don

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I dealt with the same questions and I posted what I found on the subject here: Exercise and stress with Aortic Aneurysm

In 2004, two writers from the Wall Street Journal, one a runner with an aortic aneurysm, won the Pulitzer Prize for their examination of aneurysms. Here: The Pulitzer Prizes

And the author later wrote an article here about running races without competing: Older, Wiser, Slower

My recommendation is to find a way to exercise without pushing your limits, such as the recommendation to lift only 10 times a weight that you could lift 15 times.
 

tom in MO

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I don't have an aneurysm, but being born bicuspid, I can have a higher risk of one. My cardiac rehab RN echoed Leadville saying that any exercise where you hold your breath must be avoided. It spikes your blood pressure. For me we were discussing isometric exercises.
 

TheGymGuy

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Howdy there. I haven't posted much here due to life busyness, but I'm a competitive powerlifter and dabble in some crossfit now. There are many opinions on the subject. I'm not a doctor but did run my condition and plans via my cardiologist and my surgeon.....
Anyways, I train as a powerlifter and compete yearly in all powerlifting lifts (squat, bench, deadlift). In my signature you'll find links to my surgery, recovery and training. If needed I'd be up for a chat with ya on messenger.

Your body is only as weak as you let it be. Small incremental steps are key to training everything. This is the main lesson we learn. Slow and smart gets you far.

Once you have your corrective surgery and have new piping and valves and such, training will be a huge part of recovery and healing.
 

Superman

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As others have already said, can you breath through your set? That should be the goal. Hard weight limits are silly. 20kg for you vs 20 kg for a 50 kg female. Not the same thing.

I would, however, be asking about your aneurysm history. At 4.7 cm, you’re 8mm away from what is almost universally considered operable. 3 mm from what many will consider operable on a BAV patient. If you’ve been at 4.7 for a couple years, that’s one thing. If you went from 3.5 to 4.7 in a year, that’s another.
Yet another topic is risk tolerance and living vs surviving. At what point is giving up your passion for a few extra years worth it? Only answerable on the individual level.
 

spartangator

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Howdy there.
Yes, great to see you. Glad all continues wonderfully.

@Meathead TV , good to have you here (well, I mean, for a club no one opts into, but you get what I mean :)). As you can see, it's a wonderful group of people happy to share and discuss their lessons learned. Glad you're asking thoughtful questions and minding yourself.
 

Mister_James

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You have to consider "work" done.

Lifting 250lbs in 5 seconds, may be the work equivalent to lifting 5lbs slowly in 10 minutes.

One may kill you right there and then, the other may kill you at the 9th minute or you may survive both.

These are things that there is no scientific cut offs. Its like a 100 year old man, pack a day for 70 years, smoker. You can't tell him about cancer.

Exercise is good, strenuous exercises that put a strain on the heart maybe not.
 

pellicle

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well as this is still going I thought I'd throw in more details than I had previously done.

Basically my view is this:
  • I train weights to increase muscle tone and maintain / develop strength, however I do not focus at all on how much bulk I have or being competitive. In fact to be competitive is to push the boundaries beyond what *you* feel because you have to compete against others. I find my own boundaries and push those gently
  • I do not have any interest in "appearance" only balance. Once I did martial arts (Aikido) and have always enjoyed cycling. For everything except body building and power lifting extra bulk is a handicap.
  • do stretching as part of your routine
  • build for endurance strength.
We are all a bit different, but my good friend is a Masters of Physical Education and often laments that people all want to be "THE BEST" when in the vast majority of cases that just brings harm to them. Genetics plays a big part in this, some people can naturally build muscle size, others not so much.

As long as your central focus is on personal health and vitality in life not personal appearance and vanity you'll be sweet.
 

Superman

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well as this is still going I thought I'd throw in more details than I had previously done.

Basically my view is this:
  • I train weights to increase muscle tone and maintain / develop strength, however I do not focus at all on how much bulk I have or being competitive. In fact to be competitive is to push the boundaries beyond what *you* feel because you have to compete against others. I find my own boundaries and push those gently
  • I do not have any interest in "appearance" only balance. Once I did martial arts (Aikido) and have always enjoyed cycling. For everything except body building and power lifting extra bulk is a handicap.
  • do stretching as part of your routine
  • build for endurance strength.
We are all a bit different, but my good friend is a Masters of Physical Education and often laments that people all want to be "THE BEST" when in the vast majority of cases that just brings harm to them. Genetics plays a big part in this, some people can naturally build muscle size, others not so much.

As long as your central focus is on personal health and vitality in life not personal appearance and vanity you'll be sweet.
55994EE1-8F03-462A-B1A8-3B5E9259D8D7.jpeg
 

SumoRunner

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I never lifted, i.e. no plates hanging on long bars. I was told at the age of 15 to avoid such things, and so I did. I was told to avoid running, but I didn't. I got into endurance workouts doing plenty of running, biking, swimming, and pushups. Tons of pushups. I regularly did at least 100 day for years. 72 now and not doing as much, but back in my 60s I once did 10x50 in 1 hour. I did shot put for 25 years which is more about speed than raw strength. I ran in over 500 road races, never a marathon though, a few short triathlons, long distance swims, and of course, hundreds of T&F meets. There's a lot of different things that you can do.
 

Meathead TV

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I really appreciate all the replies.

It's a tough situation, to feel physically absolutely great and strong - but having to restrict yourself so much in training. I've struggled for years trying to give up heavy lifting, as I feel it's such a huge part of my identity, what I love doing and what I'm good at. Tried to find anything that would suggest that lifting heavy would be safe for me, at least to some degree. Can't seem to find it.

The risks involved however are why I've struggled mentally with this thing for years.

My condition hasn't progressed in at least around 7 years (probably even longer, but can't find the data of older MRI's/Ultra's). Most of that time I've been lifting heavy, done at closer to 10 bench press competitions and been a lot heavier at times (bodyweight) than I am now. This is also one of the arguments I've used when "debating" myself, if anything hasn't happened (condition progressed, dropped dead) - am I really harming myself? However, I'm not going to wait for the moment to find out.
 

pellicle

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It's a tough situation, to feel physically absolutely great and strong - but having to restrict yourself so much in training.
to be honest unless you want to be a competitive weight lifter every reply so far has pretty much said there are no effective restrictions (bar the specific breath holding manuver) and you can train till your hearts content.

as we age all things change for us ... from infancy to old age and stability only comes in death. I'm not so keen on stability
 

Meathead TV

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Mar 1, 2020
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What are your thoughts and what have your experiences been with repetition ranges?

My cardiologists have basically always advised to do longer sets. I just don't think it matters that much if you are doing sets of 5, 6, 8 reps or 15, if you are always leaving a few or more reps in the tank. Obviously, you can lift heavier weights by doing shorter sets, which is probably where the advice stems from.

If I pick a weight I could do 10 reps with and I stop at 5, I would assume it would be acceptable. (Obviously focusing on not holding my breath at any point)
 

AZ Don

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What are your thoughts and what have your experiences been with repetition ranges?

My cardiologists have basically always advised to do longer sets.
The reason for this is because failure with low reps is typically muscle failure which as I understand, particularly with compound movements can increase blood pressure which increases the risks associated to the aneurysm. Failure at high reps (> 15) is more typically caused by metabolic failure. The weight can be lifted but the muscle burn is too great to continue. As I understand it there is less risk associated to the aneurysm from this form of failure.

Here is a previous thread on lifting with an aortic aneurysm with a lot of good tips and some excellent links that discuss this issue with experts in the field.

I would not underestimate the risks of weight lifting with an aortic aneurysm. It is not the same as weightlifting with a BAV or weight lifting with a repaired aortic aneurysm. The following study reviews aortic dissections associated to physical exertion. The mean aortic diameter at the time of dissection was 4.63cm.
 

pellicle

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he mean aortic diameter at the time of dissection was 4.63cm.
interesting ... probably inside watch limits, if of course you had any idea you had one (I didn't)
 

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