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Forum Name: Miscellaneous Cardiology Topics

Question: Heart Rate during/after treadmill - too fast!


 spartyman - Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:20 pm

Over the last month I have noticed that my heart rate while doing my 30 minutes on the treadmill has increased. My regular routine is to go 3.8 mph at a 4.0 incline. I've done this for years. My heart rate is usually in the 130-135 bpm range. Last week I decided I was going to start running for 2 minutes and increase it 15 seconds each time half way through my walking, eventually building up to 10 minutes. On the first day of running at a speed of 6 mph (a 10 minute mile pace), one minute into my run I grabbed the handles of the treadmill and my heart rate was at 170 bpm. That freaked me out. I wasn't getting too winded or anything but seeing such a high number was a bit unnerving. It took a couple hours for my heart rate to get back down under 100. A couple days later I ran for 3 minutes and the same thing, 1 hour after leaving the gym my heart rate was still 110. It took several hours to have my heart rate return to the 75-80 range. Today while only walking on the treadmill at the usual speed and incline, my heart rate was 145-150 bpm.

I'm 42 years old, a bit anxious about things - especially when it comes to changes in my health. I do not get any pain in my chest while exercising, just a really fast heart rate and a super long recovery time to get back to normal. Is my heart pumping extra fast trying to get blood out to the periphery? Is it a symptom of clogged arteries? I once had an ultrasound 14 years ago which showed trivial mitral regurge. They said it was a normal thing in many males. Could this be something that has gotten worse and the heart has to pump faster when exercising?

Thanks for the response.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:17 pm

User avatar Hi there -

Given the sudden increase in intensity of your workout from 3.8 to 6.0, you may have simply surprised your heart and changed your threshold for heart rate. While we generally observe the theoretical maximum rate as 220 minus one's age (which would give you a "maximum" heart rate of 178), and try to reach a person's maximum rate during routine stress testing (barring any untoward symptoms which would cause us to slow or stop the test), you actually "jumped" into a peak stress test situation on that first big step up in speed. It's been my observation that many people react to this by a sort of reflex tachycardia that doesn't slow down as quickly as one would expect ideally, but without significant changes in EKG waveform nor any untoward symptoms.

The fact that your rate hits 145 - 150 while walking on the treadmill is a little bit odd, and for this reason, primarily, you might want to have a physical exam to determine if you might have something else going on, such as a viral infection, an unrecognized anemia, or some other indirect cause of this change. The other numbers aren't too surprising, but the last number you mentioned is rather unusual and may represent some undue fatigueability.

After 14 years you're also entitled to a follow-up echocardiogram, although trivial mitral regurge is extremely common and usually "normal" among the general, healthy adult population. It could ease your mind to know there's nothing going on with the mitral valve, or, if by the extremely off-chance there is, that would also be useful information. However, I'd almost be willing to bet that hasn't changed enough to account for your numbers (and I say "numbers" because other than the sign of increased peak heart rate and slower recovery time, you appear to have zero symptoms). It's just prudent to have an occasional complete physical and it wouldn't be wrong to have that echo as well, again, if only to ease your mind.

Sounds as though you're in good shape. Only one way to be certain, of course. Make an appointment and get a complete checkup.

I hope this is helpful to you. Best of luck, and please do follow up with us as needed.

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