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Heart Flutter - is cycling to blame

jimwinjimwin Posts: 208
Last year I had atrial flutter of the heart after a regular club ride. That was successfully cardioverted back to normal rythm and I thought that was it. However, just before the year end, it went again and over time eventually became persistent. After several months, I finally had a RF catheter ablation procedure which does seem to done the trick and hopefully will prevent recurrence.

The reason for this post is to find out if others have had this condition and, if so, is cycling a possible cause (all those hours in the saddle at high heart rates). Some medical posts do suggest a prevalence of this condition in endurance athletes - specifically long distance runners and cyclists.

If you've had this condition, please post so we can share our experiences and, perhaps, see if this really is prevalent in our sport.


  • bs147bs147 Posts: 164
    Hi, I went through all this back in 2007. Cardioversion put my heart back in normal beat but they had by then diagnosed me with Wolff Parkinson White syndrome. So in this case the AF was also permanently cured by catheter ablation. I'd never had the flutter whilst cycling or doing any form of exercise and made a point of asking if it had been induced by cycling (I'd started doing sportives the year previous and had done the Etape earlier that year). In my case the answer was no, definately not cycling induced as WPW syndrome is present from birth - often showing itself as one of the so-called 'sudden death syndromes' in the under 20's. Luckily I'd got well beyond then when my symptoms showed themselves.

    Since the treatment in 2007 I've had no problems at all - not even a single palpitation, and have done the Marmotte, etc several times since.

    Hope yours proves to be an issue resolved.


  • Yes, I had a cardio version 2 years ago, but no repetition as yet.

    No-one's suggested to me that it was caused by cycling - or that I should stop, but like you I've read that it is more common among people who do endurance sports.
  • garetjaxgaretjax Posts: 175
    An interesting post.

    Around the time I began participating in time trialling events I started to experience an unusual and very alarming heart arrythmia. My heart would flutter sometimes for weeks on end !

    I had already done a lot of cycling prior to time trialling, at a reasonable level, but I had never really pushed myself as hard as I did when training for and doing time trial events. I have always wondered if it was this increase in intensity that somehow set off the heart arrythmia.

    After about a year and various medical investigations ( though no actual surgery) the heart arrythmia went away and has never come back despite me taking part in the odd time trial now and then.

    Keep cycling. Exercise is GOOD for the heart. That's what the consultant told me.
  • FransJacquesFransJacques Posts: 2,148
    In 2003-'04 I had, at first, chest pain, arm pain, palpitations, then debilitating bouts of hyper tachicardia.

    Had tons of tests (stress tests, Holter monitor, more ECGs than you can shake a stick at, heart scans by ultrsound and the radioactive type where they inject you with a tracer) which came up largely negative - I was diagnosed with mild mitral regurgitation which 20-30% of the population have.

    The frustrating thing was that it subsided over time hence I never understood the root cause. 2 things were key - I gained a lot of weight to take part in an olympic sailing campaign and my father passed away - so in the end I reasoned 80% of it was in my head - panic attacks coupled with gaining 15kgs in a short time.

    A consultation with a trusted cadiologist really helped b/c he told me a) I wasn't going to just drop dead on the bike by pushing myself (given the scan results), b) back off on the caffeine a notch, c) deal with stress more, and d) cease self-monitoring with the HRM - throw the damn thing away and enjoy the thumping in my chest. That last part was the really hard advice to put into practice.

    So start by examining where you are in your fitness sine curve - are you at the top or are you rather unfit? If you're more unfit, are you pushing yourself too hard, too soon?

    Next, what kind of worries in life do you have (work, marriage, kids, parents, money, etc.) Are they the kind of things that wake you up at night with a start? Are they things that have been festering for a while that are making you feel vulnerable? Things you badly want to remedy but cannot? Are you particularly stressed out? Are you biking to get away then find yourself thinking too much?

    Lastly is sleep and caffeine - more of the first and less of the second to give your body a chance to overcome an underlying illness that might be overloading your system which the cycling aggravates. But asking cyclists to stop cycling is like telling a crack addict....
    When a cyclist has a disagreement with a car; it's not who's right, it's who's left.
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