Mike Tierney, who writes The Wheel Builder column for RBR, emailed Coach David Ertl and me a couple weeks ago with the attention-grabbing subject line: “Angina.”
I knew immediately (if not 100% accurately) what that word meant. My dad died at 66 after suffering from heart disease and related problems for more than a third of his life. I remember as a kid the little nitroglycerin tablets he carried around to pop under his tongue when he felt the pull of angina. Dad’s genes (my genes) finally caught up to me a few years ago, and I was diagnosed with mild atherosclerosis and put on a statin to help control my cholesterol. I wrote about the experience in RBR in 2012.
David knew the word “angina” in a more personal way. He wrote a year ago in RBR about his own case of angina, what came after it, and the lessons it held for other cyclists. David ended up with a stent to open a blockage in one of his coronary arteries, now takes a statin to help control his cholesterol, and credits cycling with saving his life. He recognizes that his heart disease could have been far worse had he not kept himself in good shape otherwise and followed his own nutrition advice.
Mike had read David’s article, which is why he reached out to him; he desperately needed some advice and encouragement after being diagnosed with angina and facing a battery of tests similar to David’s.
We Collectively Decided to Share Our Stories
In the process of swapping our personal stories with each other, we all agreed on something: Just as all of us who contribute to RBR on a regular basis have an abiding desire to share our own cycling experience with fellow roadies to help us all improve and enjoy our shared passion even more, so too do those of us with heart issues want to share our own experiences to help our fellow human beings avoid or better deal with their own heart problems.
Which brings us to today’s issue.
Mike graciously agreed to document his own onset experiences, including symptoms, diagnosis, testing and any needed procedures and recovery (this is still in process, and he’s promised to send in a follow-up to today’s story, “Feel the Burn: My Angina Story,” which leads things off). [Update: I’m sad to report that, as of the 9th, Mike let us know that his angiogram revealed three blockages “that range in severity,” and he’s been admitted to the hospital, facing bypass surgery in the next couple of days. Let’s keep Mike in our thoughts and prayers.]
Gabe Mirkin, M.D., also agreed to put together a piece explaining angina, its symptoms, causes, tests a doctor may recommend, and prognoses related to the affliction.
To round out our coverage, we’re re-running both David’s story and mine, as well as yet another piece Dr. Alan Bragman wrote for RBR a few years back on his own bout with atrial fibrillation (a-fib). While it’s not in the same “family” of heart disease as the rest of the issues discussed, it is yet another issue not uncommon to athletes – and it holds many of the same lessons regarding regular check-ups, paying attention to symptoms, and more.
We sincerely hope there are some useful lessons in this package of stories for RBR’s readers. (And there are numerous other related articles in the Health section of this site.) We want nothing so much as for all of you to remain as healthy and active as possible throughout your lives. Let’s all keep rolling strong!
Note: We round out this issue with pieces by Coach John Hughes and a new Tech Talk by Jim Langley. I just didn’t want you to overlook those.
John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he brought our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.