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High Intensity Training and Hemorrhagic Stroke

Be aware of high blood pressure

Paul Hutinger | May 3, 2010

High blood pressure (HBP) and unusual stress can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, not usually as devastating as an ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke and is caused by a clot or other blockage within an artery leading to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are due to a rupture of a blood vessel or an abnormal vascular structure.

My hemorrhagic stroke occurred eleven years ago, while I was doing a set of 10 x 25 no-breathers on 1:00. During these high intensity sprints, my left arm went numb. I left the pool, the lifeguards called 9-1-1 and I had an ambulance ride to the emergency room. I had no residual effects and I was back in the water within two weeks. It was my wake-up call to be aware of my BP and always keep it under control.

A teammate of mine had a similar problem last month. He was doing a high intensity set of 20 x 50, and his HBP caused a hemorrhagic stroke. The lifeguards got him out of the pool, called 9-1-1 and the EMTs rushed him to the emergency room. For the time being, he will do rehab and walk in the pool. The prognosis for his future looks good, without any handicaps. He uses his home BP unit, frequently.

Important points you should be aware of:

  • As you age, it is important to have an annual physical examination that will include blood tests, as well as having your blood pressure measured.
  • Some BP medications, such as beta-blockers, can negatively affect your normal heart rate by limiting your max heart rate. This could make you feel tired and worn out, like fatigue.
  • If you have HBP, be sure to tell your doctor that you are a trained athlete who works out regularly. He or she needs to be aware of your potential, to prescribe the appropriate medications.
  • Some medications wear off later in the day. If you take your meds in the morning, your BP could go up in the afternoon.
  • Monitor your BP regularly with a home unit. It can also be used as a biofeedback control, using relaxation to reduce your BP, which could help you avoid, or lessen your medication.
  • Don’t do high intensity training on the days you cannot control your BP. Do an easy, relaxed swim and monitor to see the effect.
  • As you become older, it is important to control the stresses in your life. Stress that you may not even be aware of can increase your BP. Swimming and other aerobic exercises will help to facilitate benefits.

Dr. Hutinger is an ASCA Level IV Coach, a 2004 IMSHOF Inductee and the 2010 FL LMSC Coach of the Year.

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