By Guest Blogger Steven Reiss
Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. Periodically, we’ll have survivors, caregivers and others share their “whys.”
I’m 63 years old and have always enjoyed being active. For the past 30 years, I’ve been an avid swimmer beginning each day with an hour in the pool. In 2008, I swam the English Channel as part of a relay team. Recently, I had a health scare that could have significantly impacted my ability to swim competitively. Thankfully, remarkable teams of physicians and an innovative pacemaker have allowed me to continue living the life I love.
Swimming is part of my daily routine. I’m competitive and committed to performance so I monitor my body very closely. Early in 2014, I found myself slowing down during my swims and having trouble catching my breath consistently. I knew something was wrong. After consulting with numerous physicians I was referred to an electrophysiologist in Manhattan. My doctor almost immediately identified the problem—my heart was pausing for four to five seconds between beats. My heartbeat was slow, a clinically-defined arrhythmia known as bradycardia. He was stunned that I hadn’t made a trip to the ER already. I needed a pacemaker. Immediately.
I was shocked. As a healthy and active man, I wasn’t ready to be told that I needed a pacemaker to regulate my heartbeat. I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that an irregular heartbeat isn’t something that only impacts the old and out of shape; this can happen to anyone.
My doctor set out to select a pacemaker that would allow me to continue my active lifestyle and be a fit for my diagnosis and medical history. Together, we chose a pacemaker that offers closed loop stimulation (CLS). The CLS feature enables my pacemaker to sense the difference between pacing and metabolic needs to establish a healthy heart rate. This means that I can get my heart rate up where it needs to be while I’m swimming. My pacemaker is also approved by the FDA for use during an MRI. As an active aging man, I’ve had several MRI scans and will likely need additional scans in the future. My physician and I decided that a device that is approved for use during an MRI scan was a necessity for me to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment in the future.
In March 2015, I received my pacemaker. Two days later, I was on a stationary bike working out and feeling great. Since then, I’ve returned to the water and have been swimming every day, without shortness of breath. It feels incredible to be back in the water and enjoying my passion for swimming. I couldn’t be happier. A healthy, active lifestyle is so important. I always love to share my story so people realize that many limitations can be overcome. Everyone deserves an opportunity to be healthy, feel good and enjoy life.
Stephen tells his story here.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Tell us what your “why” is? Visit Share Your Story
Information and opinions expressed within our Guest Posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association|American Stroke Association; nor does the Association endorse any products or services represented in this blog. In addition, these blogs are not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. The American Heart Association|American Stroke Association recommends you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters.
Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.