Weight Lifting With Aortic Aneurysm or Aortic Stenosis
Even Arnold had his aortic valve replaced
Weight lifting is a popular form of exercise for people looking to build strength, increase muscle mass, and improve overall fitness. However, for individuals with certain heart conditions such as aortic aneurysm or aortic stenosis, weight lifting may need to be approached with caution. In this article, we will explore the relationship between weight lifting and aortic valve conditions, specifically aortic aneurysm and aortic stenosis. We will also discuss the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment for these conditions.
Talk to your doctor!
Everyone is different and talking to your doctor is the best and most important thing you can do. Do not seek medical advise off some blog on the internet. Your doctor will need to take into account several factors, such as the location and size of your aneurysm, the severity of your aortic valve stenosis, your overall health and fitness level, and any other medical conditions you may have.
That being said, here is some general information about lifting weights when you have an aortic aneurysm, aortic stenosis, or other heart issues.
Aortic Valve Conditions
The aortic valve is one of the four heart valves that control blood flow through the heart. It is responsible for regulating blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Two of the most common aortic valve conditions are aortic aneurysm and aortic stenosis.
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the aorta, the largest artery in the body, that can occur anywhere along its length. Think of a bicycle tube that has a side bubble that is about to explode. When the aneurysm occurs in the aortic arch or descending aorta, it can put pressure on the heart and other vital organs, causing serious health problems. Aortic aneurysms can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, and connective tissue disorders.
An aortic aneurysm that has progressed far enough can rupture when blood pressure gets high, as it does when lifting weights.
Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve narrows, reducing blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. It can be caused by age-related wear and tear, congenital defects, or other underlying health conditions. Symptoms of aortic stenosis can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting.
Weight Lifting and Aortic Valve Conditions
For individuals with aortic aneurysm or aortic stenosis, weight lifting can pose a risk of rupture or other complications. The strain placed on the heart during weight lifting can cause the aneurysm to expand or the narrowed valve to narrow further, potentially leading to a medical emergency. It is important to note, however, that the risk of complications varies depending on the severity of the condition and other individual factors.
Mitral Valve and Bicuspid Aortic Valve Conditions
While aortic aneurysm and aortic stenosis are the most common heart valve conditions, there are other conditions that can also affect heart health. Two such conditions are mitral valve conditions and bicuspid aortic valve conditions.
Mitral Valve Conditions
The mitral valve controls blood flow between the two left chambers of the heart. Conditions that affect the mitral valve can disrupt blood flow and lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Weight lifting may also need to be approached with caution for individuals with mitral valve conditions.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve Conditions
A bicuspid aortic valve is a congenital defect in which the aortic valve has only two leaflets instead of the normal three. This condition can increase the risk of aortic aneurysm and aortic stenosis, making proper diagnosis and treatment essential. A bicuspid valve in and of itself if not dangerous, but it does increase the risk of other complications, and so weight lifting may not be advisable to prevent things like aortic aneurysms from forming.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Proper diagnosis and treatment of aortic valve conditions is crucial for managing symptoms and preventing serious complications. Treatment may include medication, lifestyle changes, or surgery, depending on the severity of the condition. In some cases, valve replacement surgery may be necessary to restore normal blood flow and prevent further damage to the heart.
Avoid Sudden Blood Pressure Spikes
Typically, heavy lifting will spike blood pressure and put additional strain on your cardiovascular system, which can be potentially dangerous for someone with an aortic aneurysm or a damaged aortic valve.
People with aortic valve disease who are given the OK to lift weights are almost always told to lift light weights for many reps. This is because light weights do not cause a sudden spike in blood pressure the way lifting heavy weights does. Blood pressure spikes especially fast and high when someone is practicing the Valsalva maneuver, which is where you tense your body and hold your breath.
Blood pressure is also more likely to spike when doing compound movements which work multiple muscles. Things like squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, etc. Your doctor may tell you to avoid these kinds of exercises to avoid putting too much pressure on your heart.
It’s unfortunate, because lifting heavy weights and compound lifts are some of the most common pieces of weightlifting advice. For someone with a healthy heart they are likely to be the best way to gain strength, including strengthening their heart and lowering their blood pressure. Unfortunately, weightlifting like this is likely to severely damage a diseased heart, and should be avoided by those with aortic valve or aortic aneurysm problems.
Another important way to lessening sudden increases in blood pressure is to warm up before exercising or any kind. A10-15 minute warmup will gradually increases your heart rate and blood flow, preparing your cardiovascular system for the upcoming physical activity. This gradual rise in heart rate allows your blood vessels to dilate, improving circulation and ensuring that oxygen and nutrients are delivered efficiently to the working muscles. Additionally, a proper warm-up enhances the elasticity of blood vessels and promotes better cardiac output, reducing the strain on the heart during more intense exercise. By increasing body temperature and lubricating joints, a warm-up also improves the efficiency of oxygen uptake and utilization, enhancing overall cardiovascular performance. In essence, a well-executed warm-up not only primes your muscles but also promotes optimal cardiovascular function, contributing to a safer and more effective exercise session where your blood pressure does not suddenly spike.
It is much safer to have blood pressure rise gradually and slowly. This is true of weightlifting and cardio exercises.
Your doctor can work with you to develop a safe and effective exercise plan that promotes your overall health and well being while minimizing the risk of complications. Depending on your specific circumstances, they may recommend lower-intensity exercises like walking or swimming, lifting light weights with many reps, or may advise against weightlifting altogether.
If you are uncertain or have not talked to your doctor about weight lifting, it’s best to avoid heavy weight lifting, power lifting, bodybuilding, etc. until you get the OK from your doctor.
Surgery is worse than not lifting
It is possible your heart is healthy enough that you can lift heavy weights without problems, but having to go through open heart surgery because you lifted weights when you shouldn’t have is going to be a lot worse. The recovery from such a surgery takes at least 3 months and most of your gains are going to be gone by the time you recover. And after heart surgery your heart will be even more fragile and you will likely be on a beta blocker medication which will limit your peak physical output.
In other words, you’re going to lose more muscle and fitness if you have heart surgery than if you end up avoiding surgery by not lifting weights.
There’s a great post on the Starting Strength forums from a doctor who also runs a weightlifting gym about why he will not train someone with an aortic graft. There’s too many unknowns, and the type of barbell training advocated in the Starting Strength program (height weight, low reps, compound lifts) is the exact opposite of what someone with aortic disease should be doing.
In conclusion, weight lifting can pose a risk of complications for individuals with aortic aneurysm, aortic stenosis, mitral valve conditions, and bicuspid aortic valve conditions. If you have been diagnosed with any of these, go talk to a cardiologist.