A pacemaker is an implanted medical device that uses electrical impulses to regulate the beats of the heart. This is usually done when the heart begins to beat too slow or in an irregular pattern. The heart is like a large muscle that pumps blood through your body after receiving an electrical signal. This beat must be perfectly regulated to compensate for the demands of the body. Anything that puts pressure on the heart, including strength training, may damage a pacemaker and disrupt the rhythm.
A permanent pacemaker consists of two main parts that allow the heart to properly function: the generator and the lead. The generator is a small metal case containing a power source and timer to regulate the pace at which the device sends out the electrical signal. The lead, which is threaded through a vein into the heart, monitors the rhythm of the heart to send out the electricity.
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The problem with weightlifting, or any extreme motion of the upper extremities occurring over a long period of time, is that the activity could crack or damage the lead in the pacemaker, potentially preventing the device from regulating your heart beat. This is a relatively rare event and as of 2011 has only been firmly documented in the past few decades. Nevertheless, heavy lifting is not generally recommended, according to Dr. Brian Olshansky, Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa. This may also entail that you demure from any daily chores or jobs that require heavy lifting, for example, in construction.
Lifting After Pacemaker Installation
During the first one to three months after the installation of the pacemaker, you should limit use of your arms where the pacemaker was placed and avoid any activities that involve heavy pushing, pulling or raising of the arms above your shoulders, at least until you are told otherwise by your cardiologist. Even something as simple as lifting laundry during housework may be discouraged. After the first few months, however, you can continue to take part in moderate and regular activities.
Damage to the pacemaker can result in serious health complications to the heart, which will require immediate medical care and/or hospitalization. For this reason, ask your cardiologist before you decide to lift weights of any kind. He may approve a lightly regimented weightlifting routine or disallow it altogether if the conditions of your heart prove unfavorable.