34 Years Old Who Had A Heart Attack And Has 3 Stents, Can He Still Snowboard?

I received a question from Jon and he was kind enough to let me post it here. Please feel free to add anything to our conversation through the comments link. 

“Hey Eric,

I had a heart attack 3 weeks ago at age 34 and had 3 stents put in. I’m on all the meds now and watching my diet. I just want to know if I will be ok to go snowboarding again next winter.





13 thoughts on “34 Years Old Who Had A Heart Attack And Has 3 Stents, Can He Still Snowboard?

  1. Hey Jon,
    I’m so glad to hear you are alive and feeling well enough to get back on your board.

    Whether or not you can ride this winter is obviously a discussion you will have to have with doctor but from my personal experience I am able to be much more active than a lot of heart attack survivors because I very little heart muscle damage. Through echo cardiograms, and nuclear treadmill testing my doctors feel it is safe for me. Have your doctors said anything about how much muscle damage was done.

    I do recommend you start in a cardiac rehab program. I think you need to wait at least 30 days from surgery. Have you been given any info on one near you or through your hospital?

  2. I had the attack while I was working out with a trainer. I had complete blockage of my right coronary artery. My symptoms were intense central chest pain extending to both shoulders. The stents were placed and bloodflow restored within 45 minutes to an hour of onset. I know that there was some damage to my left ventricle and that my ejection fraction was 50% immediately following the procedure.

    My stress test is in 2 weeks, so I will know more then.

    My symptoms since the heart attack are minor shortness of breath, difficulty yawning and taking full breaths, but these seem to be improving and my doctor says not to worry.

    My anxiety levels are way higher and I have had a couple of breif episodes of disrythmia (trigeminy). Again, my doctor says this is common and not to worry.

    I have had some minor joint and muscle pain that I am hoping is not related to the Lipitor. Dr says not to worry.

    I am able to go for long walks and do housework up and down stairs without difficulty or fatigue of any kind. The doctor seems to think I will be back to normal in no time and able to go boarding next season but it’s difficult to convince myself.

  3. Pretty amazing story! I’m curious did you think your were having a heart attack? Did you think you needed to be checked out or did the trainer talk you into it?

    The symptoms you mention I have heard of before. Maybe taking full breaths are more related to anxiety?

    As for you anxiety I was a reck. I was calm but felt like I might have another heart attack at any minute(of course that wasn’t possible). I had a lot of chest pain for weeks afterwards. I even went back into the doctors and called paramedics 2-3 times and went to the emergency room on my own another 2-3 times, all this in the first 6 months. Basically my doctor felt that my anxiety and stress was bringing on the pains. Since the pain would come and go without any form of exertion. I would on occasion take a Xanax and within 15-20 minutes the pain was gone so I (we) concluded that was case. So I think you are not alone in having anxiety or worrying that you can’t snowboard again.

    A few things really helped me gain control of and get through my anxiety. First was to go to a cardiac support group, you will be the youngest there 🙂 They are usually run by a cardiac nurse and you will feel better being around others and you’ll have someone to ask questions to. Also you must, must get into a cardiac rehab program. You will gain so much confidence by doing so. You’ll meet other people who are still active and be able to push yourself in a safe environment. I know I felt better when I would see some old guy- in his 60’s running on a treadmill-and come to find out he’s had multiple stents and bypass surgery. The last thing I can recommend is yoga. There have been many, many times that I would feel stressed out, worried or scared and by using breathing techniques and doing some simple Asanas I could re-focus my my mind.

    I hope you do not feel you should not have anxiety. Anyone that goes through a traumatic situation will feel anxiety coming from all sides. I think your doctors are right in that you will be able to board again, probably this year. You most likely are in better shape than you were before having the heart attack, since your heart has been checked out. I have 7 stents and had 2 heart attacks and my surgeon & primary cardiologist say to me to keep doing whatever I want until symptoms arise that tell me otherwise.

    It took me 3 years before I would ride alone on a mountain bike trail. I switched to road biking so I could stay near my house and eventually ride farther and farther away from my comfort zone. I didn’t surf for 5 years. Mostly because my friends that surfed moved away and I had always surfed alone so until a friend moved back and got me in the water again I stayed away. It took me having someone to do all the things I usually did alone to get me over my fears and now I do anything. So, I can suggest that you go up right away to your favorite run enjoy yourself.

    I tend to ramble on so if I seem too wordy it is only because I really do care about you and your recovery and want to pass on to you anything I feel helped me or might help you…hopefully something above has:)

    I’ll be happy to continue our conversation if you want.



  4. At first, I did not think I was having a heart attack. The pain was very similar to the pectoral muscle pain and shoulder pain I would get from lifting lots of weights, but that would usually occur a couple of days after working out rather than such a sudden onset. I was in the middle of exercizes and doing pushups and burpees and mountain climbers so for the first 5 minutes I convinced myself it was just from the workout. I went to go get some water and it wasn’t getting any better. I sat down and the pain and exhaustion just weren’t going away. Usually I recover within about 5 minutes of pushing myself during a workout. After about 10 minutes I started to sweat excessively, feel nauseous and my fingertips started getting cold. This is when I started thinking it might be a heart attack. I said something to my trainer at this point and he said “get yourself checked out” and then went off to shoot hoops.

    You say you worried about having another heart attack and that “of course, that wasn’t possible” but then you mentioned that you had 2 heart attacks, so obviously it was possible. What led to your second heart attack and how can I avoid that happening to me? The doctor who performed my stents said that “all my other arteries looked clean”.

    I’m lucky in that I have not had any chest pain since, aside from the random muscle pains that come and go and which I probably had before but never noticed until now. I too have taken Xanax quite a bit to get through some weird symptoms.

    I will definitely look into the programs and yoga. If I can work out at the hospital then maybe my insurance will pay for it and I can cancel my gym membership!

  5. “After about 10 minutes I started to sweat excessively, feel nauseous and my fingertips started getting cold. This is when I started thinking it might be a heart attack.” Very similar to me. I was getting ready to go home of some BMX practice at the track. I also got so dizzy I couldn’t drive a straight line.

    I could have been more clear about why having another heart attack couldn’t happen. When paramedics brought me into emergency room I had not had a heart attack yet. I was having a lot of chest pain so they gave me morphine. I don’t really remember much after that, then a few minutes later I started to have a heart attack and they gave me a clot buster to open up my arteries. I was stable enough to wait until the morning- I think it must have been around midnight by that time. But the next day at about 6:30am I had another heart attack and they took me in ASAP for a stenting. After that is when I would still have a lot of chest pains coming and going. The doctors told me there is no way I could have another heart attack as things looked good and the damage looked minimal.

    I have been to 3 cardiac rehabs due to moving and not liking 1 of them. They are 12 week programs where you are wired up to an ekg type machine that a nurse will monitor while you work out. The first 4 weeks will be very tame and based on your heart rate and perceived exertion level. The second phase 4-8 weeks will be more active and might be more specific to your regular workouts. After that the final phase you should be pretty close to what you were doing before your heart attack. After you “graduate” from the program you should be able to get into a “maintenance” program. This is were you workout by yourself and do whatever you’d like or based on what is agreed upon by your doctor the nurses & or therapist there. My insurance covered all of that.

  6. I forgot to ask. Do you know why you had a heart attack? Family history? Diabetic? Cholesterol? ?

    Also, Where do you live? I can ask my doctor and cardiac rehab trainer if they can recommend on enear you.

  7. Stress test completed. I got up to 185 pulse after 12.5 minutes which is normal for a guy my age who hadn’t had a heart attack. My ejection fraction is 65% which is normal as well. There is a small scar on my heart and the left ventricle wall is slightly sluggish but not affecting my pumping capacity. My bad cholesterol is very low now but so is my HDL good cholesterol so I am being put on Niaspan to raise that up. Overall… flying colors and prognosis is good. WHEW!!!

  8. Ok so I’ve had a mental backslide a little in the last few days. It started with me researching low HDLs and finding out how awful this condition bodes for my future. Apparently even if I do survive (unlikley) my memory and brain function will fall apart and turn me into a blubbering idiot (like my grandfather was).

    Now you say 2000 mg of Niaspan + 4000 mg fish oil only raised your HDLs by 5 points. Wow. That really sucks.

    I’m also super scared to go hiking or snowboarding because I am afraid I have additional vulnerable plaques that may be ticking time bombs that decide to explode right in the middle of a great powder run or amazing view while I am finally feeling great and like I am past all this.

    The internet sucks. All kinds of conflicting info out there. Some say they’ve raised HDL by 50 points and brought their calcium score to 0. Others say it’s impossible to make changes once the damage is done. My Dr. won’t even give me a calcium score so I have no idea how much plaque I have. He just wants me to pretend nothing happened and trust him and the drugs. I wish I could.

  9. Hey Jon- SO sorry about not getting your response up sooner. Our new baby and work has kept me off the blog…..

    I have not heard those horror stories of low HDL. I’ve just heard how important that factor is now in determining cardiac risk.

    “Now you say 2000 mg of Niaspan + 4000 mg fish oil only raised your HDLs by 5 points. Wow. That really sucks.”
    Raising HDL 1 point decreases risk by 2%. I can get my HDL up more if I lost some more weight. Just remember risk is not evaluated by 1 measurement. While I am barely over the recommended HDL number all else is good. My treadmill testes and ultrasounds look great so I keep on doing whatever I want.

    “I am afraid I have additional vulnerable plaques that may be ticking time bombs that decide to explode right in the middle of a great powder run or amazing view while I am finally feeling great and like I am past all this.”

    While I felt the exact same way as you I believe your fine. The doctors got a GREAT look at your arteries while they stented you and would have told you if you had to worry down the road.

    “My Dr. won’t even give me a calcium score so I have no idea how much plaque I have”

    That is BS. You have a RIGHT to those test results. I would get a new doctor.

    As for internet data, yes, there is a lot of conflicting info but I would stick to medical journal websites and hospital websites. Finding a cardiac support group will really help you. The one I went to was very informative and supportive. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Keep your head up. You’ll be fine. This isn’t a death sentence. You’ll live a long time and do many of the things you want, just have to take care of yourself, stay informed, get tested regularly, get a doctor you believe in.

  10. So, I am doing better mentally, but still have some issues. I am still afraid of another heart attack happening when I am far away from a cath lab and either dying or being disabled from it. It sucks because all the things I love to do have always involved getting hours away from civilization out in the middle of nowhere.

    Calcium scoring is a diagnostic test that doesn’t really track new, vulnerable fatty plaques, which are the most likely to rupture, so after hearing the same thing from several doctors I’ve decided I don’t need it. Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS) would actually be more useful, but it would require another angiogram and all the doctors say it isn’t necessary.

    What I need to know to feel safe is that I’ve eliminated vulnerable plaques in my coronary arteries. I need to know how high I have to get my HDLs for how long before any fatty plaques would have been dissolved away.

    Even if I someday convince myself that the vulnerable plaques are gone, there are other things that can cause heart attacks: vasospasm, stress hormones can attack the artery wall and trigger clots without plaque, etc…

    I have to accept the fact that there’s something about me that leads to heart attacks. It’s difficult to accept and makes it difficult to feel comfortable when far away from cath labs. I hope someday I can get over it. Either that or I need to move somewhere where the cath lab is literally at the bottom of the mountain. South Lake Tahoe?

    In other issues, isn’t it convenient that withdrawl from anxiety meds pretty much have the same symptoms as heart troubles? I’ve gotten used to minor chest pains and even had some major ones that were determined to be reactions to a hep b vaccination. At this point I feel like I have been through everything and it can only go up from here.

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