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Health Beat: ICD and exercise: New advice

DALLAS - Bobby Williams has congestive heart failure and has been treated with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator and a left ventricular assist device. Not long ago, doctors would have discouraged heavy exercise for this condition. Now, Williams, 56, is encouraged to work out as hard as he wants.

"I feel like a bionic man sometimes. I feel great," Williams said.

"It's safe for patients to participate in vigorous athletics, and so it's recommended that the physician and the patient work together, but then in the majority of cases, individual patients can continue to exercise vigorously and participate in sports, even contact sports with safety, and the patient's not significantly at risk," explained Dr. Jay Franklin, a clinical electrophysiologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators do not prevent a life-threatening rhythm disturbance, but they prevent sudden death by sending an electric shock to correct the disturbance. Heavy exercise does not impede their function.

"I've been there since these devices were all we had every step of the way to where we now have incredibly sophisticated devices that come in a platform this size, which is amazing," Franklin said.

The LVAD, which operates on an external battery and regulates normal blood flow, will be removed if and when Williams qualifies for a heart transplant, which is part of the reason he works out to get stronger.

"Stay active and you will win," Williams said.

Any patient who has had any type of transplant or implantable device should consult with their doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program.


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