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Vaso-Vagal Discussion

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Vaso-Vagal as an exerciser

From: Chris


I was diagnosed about 4 years ago after getting up in the middle of the night walking a flight of stairs then going to the toilet, all of which I believe contributed to the event. The next one was the next day while giving blood samples with a doctor. The interesting thing was that I could actually remember hearing my wife and doctor converse, but it was almost like listening to TV through a wall, as in so dim and far away it wasn't interesting.

Since then I had learnt the signs of an impending event and learnt of what to do to stop it from happening. I guess I'm only lightly affected but my poor physical health surely contributed to the onset. When diagnosed I probably couldn't even run 200 meters.

I started mountain biking a year ago and while wearing a heart rate monitor(for training purposes) I noticed that the signs of an impending event also coincided with a massive drop in my heart rate. This normally occurred when my HR should be naturally dropping, like when stopping at the top of a steep hill. The effect however appears that my drop in HR over-compensates and I start hearing that 'pounding in my ears'[1].

Interestingly I can choose a few different methods of stopping the event. Firstly I get the strong impending sense that 'I should lie down now!' I can do that and occasionally it works, though I suspect I'm just stopping myself from falling down. The other technique I have followed recently relates directly to physical exercise. Since running \ cycling involves pumping the leg muscles and they help move blood around during exercise I find that continuing to move around makes the event subside without passing out.

Recently I took up triathlons, in particular the Half-Ironman. The only place this affects me now is in transition between the 3 legs of the event, and at the finish. In all cases I just back off my intensity a little on the approach, or in the case of the finish don't stop moving at the finish line. (My wife though it looked quite funny watching me walk round in circles in transition at my last tri to ensure my HR didn't drop to far.)

Just thought I share this in case any other sufferers out there put off getting fit for fear of blacking out, I took up two sports(and compete) that are some of the worst offenders to varying heart rates and still am able to live happily. If anything it's increased my awareness of the condition. While it affects my performance a little I think the difference it make wouldn't affect my success unless I was competing at a national level.


[1] My signs of an impending event is the heavy sound of blood pumping in my ears and a sense of something bad about to happen, like dread but you know 'I have to lie down now!'


On Sabbatical!

When my office lease expired at the end of 2004, I decided to turn it into a "sabbatical" from my private practice. Many years ago, in my grandfather's 89th year of life, he told me, "John, it is important to smell the roses while you can still smell them." His life gave living a very good reputation. It is also true that the pursuit of that philosophy required my grandfather to to re-open his assay office/ore market in Wickenburg, Arizona as a 75-year-old because he had run a little short of retirement money. Thus, if blessed with his luck and health, I'll be back.. --jjh

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