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I seem to be hiking these days with a lot of old geezers carrying nitro-glycerine tablets in their pocket.

Of course, we are all still hiking after having had our tickers acting up.

So if you are one of us you may be interested in how this old geezer still hikes after several bouts with my heart including by-pass surgery.


1. I do not take all the advice from my cardiologists as gospel,

I figure they are taking the cautious road to avoid law suits.

In their list of “don’t do this; don’t do that’s” hiking falls somewhere in the middle.

What I do may not be right for you.  I’m telling you about mine, assuming you will use your common sense about yours and what you can and cannot do.

The cardiologists also tell me it is essential for me to walk at least fifteen minutes to half an hour every day.

So, I take that as permission to do a lot of gentle hiking.


2. Be cautious too about what exercise gurus recommend.

They usually are not old geezers and are talking to youngsters when they urge including aerobics in your exercise.

Moderation is my by-word.

I do not push aerobics . I hike at a slow, steady pace.

And I suspect that climbing steeper grades on a trail that causes me to pant are, I guess ‘aerobic’ enough to cause the panting.


3. I take measure of my heart rate frequently.

Especially when I’ve put in extra effort, like climbing those steeper grades.

There is a rule-of-thumb measure of what our maximum heart rate ought to be.

Find out what yours should be.  And stick to it.

The American Heart Association has a way to assess your heart’s capacity.

Here is how.

Subtract your age from 220 to determine your absolute maximum heart rate.

Mine is 220 minus 90 equaling 130.

I want to avoid my heart beating at that number — if at all possible.

I measure my heart rate very simply with the second hand of my cheap-o wrist-watch.

I find my pulse, which is easiest next to the esophagus of my neck.

Then count its beats for six seconds. I add a zero and that is it.

Lets say I count 10 beats in the six seconds. I add a zero. That gives me a heart rate of 100.

I wouldn’t trust the mechanical devices that you strap to your chest or wear on your wrist.  Not unless you check that against real watch.

A few of my friends have found that their pulse-o-matics have been off in a serious way, giving them lower readings of their heart than the rate at which it was actually beating.


4. My next calculation

is based upon a very subjective evaluation of my physical condition.

I’d be careful of what you hear from your friends.

A guy I was hiking with the other day had just returned to the trail after having ten stents put in his arteries.

He was telling me about his friend who said, “Not to worry.  My father had by-pass surgery and is now avidly hiking at a remarkably fast pace.

Good for his friend’s father!

But not for my friend.

He should be as cautious in his hiking as I am.

I’m in pretty good hiking condition since I try to hike every day.

Hence I set my target at four-fifths of that 130 max, which is104 (220 minus my age 90 = 130; times .80 aquals 104).

So when I stop, as I frequently do, I check my heart rate to be sure it stays within that range.


5. The American Heart Association suggests

we start at half our maximum rate after heart treatment.

My surgery was thirteen years ago and would have had me down to a maximum of 144 (220 minus my age 76 = 144).

So my suggested starting heart rate would have been half that or a maximum of 72.

I didn’t count it back then.

But since I know I started recuperating very slowly and very cautiously I would bet that I did not exceed that number when I got on a trail the first time after surgery.


6. Another number I depend upon

is my “at-rest heart rate.”  Mine is in the 60s.

I need to know that number, for when I check my heart rate, I wait until the beat comes back down near my at-rest rate.

Actually, so long as I am feeling good, I allow it to be about twenty percent higher — for me, about the mid 80s.

You don’t necessarily want to do what I do.

Use your own judgement of your physical condition, as well as your heart’s condition.

And, by all means, err on the safe side.

We aren’t out to set any records. We’re out to stay alive!

If I can just keep on keeping on enjoying what I’m doing, that is more than sufficient.


7. The third thing is to watch how I feel.

I took major advantage of this suggestion a few weeks ago.

This is tricky for me, because of the side-effects of some of my meds can suddenly make me feel strange — suddenly depressed, or headachy, or very gaseous, or light-headed — a whole variety of strange feelings that come and go at whim.

My hike that day was unusual and caused me to take extra caution.

Here’s what happened.

I was out with my wife and dog on an easy trail that I often hike.  Just a week before I hiked 7-1/2 miles on it, feeling chipper.

This day though, while I felt good and strong when we started out.  And I was fully enjoying the hike for the first couple of hours,

Suddenly I began feeling “funny.”

I checked my pulse.

It was in the low 90s, a perfectly safe range.

My breathing though was heavier than usual.

I rested for a spell and when I started hiking again I felt light-headed, and woozy.

I started at first to disregard the symptoms. But shortly decided otherwise.

I stopped for another rest and waited for my heart rate to come down even lower.

The symptoms did not go away.

As I started hiking again I felt weak and gaseous, which gave a slight heaviness to my chest.

So I popped a nitro and rested longer.

At this point, with my wife now waiting patiently for me, and being only about a mile from our car, I suggested she go on ahead and wait for me there where it would be more comfortable.  She was hesitant, but knowing me, eventually left.

Thoughts ran through my head about what might be happening.  I hate that sort of thinking for it leads to downhearted moods.

Nonetheless, I took the even more cautious route.

I decided it would be wisest if I kept walking, but at a very, very slow pace, just going fast enough to cover some ground, but would keep my heart rate much closer to my normal at-rest pulse rate.

I had to climb two small hills.  Each caused my heart to beat faster of course.  I took them very slowly.

I had to laugh, for I was acting the “old man” that I actually am!

The denouement is that I finished the hike, and felt better.

My pulse went back down to normal. And my wooziness left.

As I said earlier, the symptoms may have had nothing to do with my heart, but rather with reaction to my meds.


I decided “better safe than sorry.”

It was the absolute correct decision.

This was the only time I’ve had such a weird feeling.

It is what prompted me to write this post.

And while it is now over a month since then, and I am repeating things I said in other posts, I think it might be worthwhile for some other old geezer like me.

And perhaps it has some helpful suggestions for your continued hiking.

Especially if you are one of us “nitro-carrying geezers.”


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