Can exercising at / close to max heart rate cause chest pain and collapse with a healthy heart?

Last week I went for a hilly 14 mile run which is not out of the ordinary (I’m training for an ironman) but not easy either, it was a fairly hot evening and my heart rate was unusually high throughout the entire run. I came back and ate a large meal and tried to rehydrate as best as possible before going to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with pain across my chest, I tried to stretch out hoping it was muscular pain and got up to go to the bathroom, it began to fade and I went back to sleep. I woke up again with the chest pain worse this time, I ended up collapsing and having what my girlfriend described as a fit for one minute or so, when I came round I was struggling to catch my breath and sweaty. An ambulance attended and did an ECG which seemed normal, I then ended up going to hospital and had another ECG, blood tests, and a chest x Ray, by this point I felt pretty much fine just worried. I was ultimately told that there’s no issues they could find with me, they didn’t seem interested in the exercise I’d done but also offered no other possible cause and labelled it ‘just one of those things’, I’m now concerned it might happen again any time I push myself when exercising. I realise it’s impossible to diagnose this if a doctor and the relevant tests aren’t able to, however has anybody ever come across this either as a medical professional or been through the same experience?

1 Answer

  • Julien
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    You cannot run 14 miles at max heart rate, it's just not possible. Max HR means max VO2, except if your heart has some serious issue which prevents it from bringing the oxygen efficiently (and this could also be the reason for your collapsing, but the ambulance would probably have noticed something). And at VO2max you can run about 1 to 2 miles, that's all. So you were probably far from HRmax.

    If you were at too high a VO2 for too long, what we would expect is more that your glycogen (and creatine, and everything) reserves deplete and you become physically unable to move your legs any more. That would be a local issue, not something to do with your heart.

    Your problem has maybe more to do with a Sun stroke or something like that.

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