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If you think your skiing is getting harder just because you're getting older, then think again.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
The story starts a few years ago when I realised that I'd probably have to ease up on my skiing exploits because it seemed to be getting harder every year. No problem, because I enjoy skiing so much that any skiing in the mountains would be a bonus even if I had to take it easy with more stops for rest.

I've been skiing for about 30 years in total, with some breaks in between. Getting married didn't enhance the skiing prospects but still managed a few trips with my new family but I ended up with no trips for about 6 years. After a marriage break up I spent the next few years getting back in to it with my son most years and we had a great time. He didn't take long to catch up and out ski me, but considering I mainly taught him, I saw that as a compliment. He's also just graduated from Uni, so very proud of him. There are many Snowheads who know him and have skied with him.


Back to the real reason for this post. If you have found skiing to be getting harder and putting it down to getting older, then read on, because it really might not be the case.

It all changed when I went on the PSB in December 2013. I really struggled with skiing on that trip and skied for a day and then found I had to take a day off to recover. I didn't find the piste skiing too difficult but any walking between lifts and anything uphill caused me real problems. A bad chest infection at the time clouded the issue and I put most of it down to that.

It all became clear when I had a nose bleed just after Christmas that year and it wouldn't stop, so I rang around to get help to get it sorted. My ex mother in law actually took me to an NHS walk in centre and that worked well but they couldn't sort the nose bleed and said I'd have to go to A&E. Of course they did other checks though and found I had a very erratic and high heart beat, so called an ambulance immediately. I suspect that was why I found the PSB trip so difficult but there was more.

The nose bleed was fixed quickly at A&E and also the irregular heart beat. When the doctor examined me he found that I had a leaking heart valve, which he wanted me to have an ultrasound scan to check. I also developed a high temperature, so they kept me in for four days for blood cultures to make sure that it wasn't an infection causing the heart problems.

It wasn't, so I was discharged but told I would need a Mitral valve repair some time in the future. Of course I was booked on the Birthday Bash, so I asked if I could still do that. The Cardiac specialist said that there was no reason I couldn't as the valve had been deteriating over the years but there was no reason to stop doing anything and to carry on as normal.

All good so far. When I got to the BB though it didn't go like that. It was the infamous bash where not everyone got to Arabba, although I did. Skiing was severely restricted for the first few days but when we did get to ski, I really did struggle. Any uphill walk meant a stop every few yards to get my breath but I was still ok with the skiing, so got on with it.

When I got back home and started a new contract in Manchester, I struggled walking from the station to work, so went back to A&E to get it checked. As I'd been flying, they obviously had to check for PE, but in the end put it down to my leaky valve and started the procedure to get it fixed. I was booked on the EoSB but had to cancel as I knew VT and the altitude would be beyond me.

I had the op done last July on this very day (very scary), and spent nine weeks recovering but the repair op was successful and did a lot of cardiac rehab stuff afterwards. It's worth mentioning here that the op wasn't essential but the medical advice was to go ahead because it would enhance my prospects and so the risk was acceptable. There is a risk with such a complex operation and that was the scariest part as some don't make it. Sad Having your heart stopped, cut open and fiddled with isn't something you take lightly. Happy Such a relief when you come out of the op and realise you're still here. Those first words from my nurse were so welcome.

I was discharged by the physio after one session at the hospital because I exceeded their expectations a day or so after the op. They did say I was an exception on the ward because I was much fitter than most patients. I suppose a heart valve problem isn't caused by bad diet or lack of exercise, so easier to recover from.

Lot's of walking, going to the Gym and culminating in the BB in February and it was like going back to skiing ten years ago. the EoSB at VT was a breeze. I even managed a run up to the shops on the first day. That would've been impossible a year before.

So the message is that don't accept that you are getting old but get it checked out. In my case I have a completely new lease of life. I also believe that the treatment I got on the NHS was exemplary and have nothing but praise for the way I was treated. One of the nurses who looked after me after the op was a keen skier, so we had some great conversations in the early hours when she came to check on me.

I was lucky that I found out by the circumstances but my advice to anyone who's finding skiing a bit more difficult physically to just check it's not something that can be treated.

I have a completely different view on how my skiing is going to go in the next few years.

I'd also like to say thanks to all the Snowheads that gave me encouragement when I struggled and the ones that have been so supportive during my recovery. You know who you are.

We all know what a great community Snowheads is for all such things, so just paying back for that. I know of many others that have benefited from the communal spirit. I know finding Snowheads has led me to finding so many true friends and many that I know will be friends for life. That life may be much longer now after all of this. Happy Those that know me well may well be flinching over an extended period of my jokes and one liners. You'll just have to suffer. wink
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geepee wrote:
You'll just have to suffer. wink
Good Happy

A most excellent post. Delighted it's worked out so well.
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Nice post. From the heart. wink
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Really lovely post to read, I have only met you once at a DC lunch in Otterborne but know that you have lots of friends in the SH community. I suppose that if you were not trying to do all the skiing and had just been a couch potato all your symptoms etc might have gone unnoticed, or if you were not really fit you might not have survived as long as you did.
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@Pamski, That lunch was just before The PSB that year. I did struggle with some of the walks I did down there. Good job Nicky gave me a lift to the station. wink
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@Ray Zorro, Was that a vein attempt at humour. Toofy Grin
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Good, on so many different Levels! I can only concur. My wife's father recently had a heart valve replaced by transcatheter aortic valve implantation. Brilliant result. He's out and about on his MTB again ( ok, e-MTB ) riding around Oberstdorf's scenery at age 81! A year ago he could hardly ride more than a few hundred meters and was constantly short of breath. The doctors at the clinic in Munich told him he would not have lived more than 12 months more had he not had it fixed.
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@Steilhang, I'm hoping to be doing all that at 81 too. After skiing with an 82 year old at the BB, I'm sure it's achievable. wink
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@geepee, An excellent idea to share your experience. It was great to see the difference in you between the 2014 BB and the 2015 BB! Very Happy
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Pamski wrote:
Really lovely post to read, I have only met you once at a DC lunch in Otterborne but know that you have lots of friends in the SH community. I suppose that if you were not trying to do all the skiing and had just been a couch potato all your symptoms etc might have gone unnoticed, or if you were not really fit you might not have survived as long as you did.


That is very relevant and the medics did make that point. I'm sure that if I wasn't physically active it wouldn't have been noticed as easily would have become more of a problem. Apparently if not treated the heart walls thicken due to the extra work need to pump blood round. This can lead to more problems. Another reason to keep active, especially skiing which highlights it due to the altitude effects.

I did get the impression from the cardiac specialist, that it was done more quickly because I would benefit so much from it. That's just a perception, so I don't know if that's standard practise.
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@geepee, snowHead snowHead snowHead
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@geepee, I had problems at the EOSB too, as some very kind Snowheads who helped me can confirm. I have been skiing since 1975 and thoroughly enjoying it, but on the bash, my balance completely deserted me. I rarely fall over, but it was all I could do to keep on my feet. My legs were shaking all the time, and I couldn't control my skis. I went to see the doctor when I got home, as my fingers were tingling and legs felt as if they were burning. I had allsorts of nerve tests, which proved inconclusive and am now awaiting the results of an MRI scan. It's a bit scary at the moment, but I do hope that my skiing days aren't over. Sad
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@Katia, Yes I remember you having problems. I really hope it works out for you. Fingers crossed.
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geepee wrote:


I did get the impression from the cardiac specialist, that it was done more quickly because I would benefit so much from it. That's just a perception, so I don't know if that's standard practise.


I get that impression too. I'm diabetic and if I need treatment for any thing I'm sure I get pushed to the front of the queue. I put this down to being relatively fit, for 59. snowHead
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@geepee, Glad all that healthy living paid off for you. See you at the BBQ I believe red wine is good for the heart wink
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I thought I would recommend that anyone over 40 gets a £13-£15 pulse oximeter from ebay or some other online website, and test their oxygen saturation before and during going to a high altitude place like VT.

I have one purchased recently, and it has not shown any reason to be concerned. (my oxygen saturation is 96%/97% at rest, and higher after light exercise 98% or 99%)

I am using it to determine optimal training strategies when jogging (as I have been doing a fair bit recently) and to see the effect of anaerobic exercise.

As they are so cheap, light weight, and small, you can easily have it with you on the slopes and test your oxygen saturation right at the top of the mountain.

This is especially adviseable if you currently smoke, or are overweight, as well as being older than 40. The reason for this is that obesity and smoking are both significant factors for lowered oxygen saturation. Therefore, going to high altitudes is not really a good idea if you smoke, are in the age range for cardiovascular problems (over 50), and are overweight.

Maybe snowheads on their next trip to VT could all take their oxygen saturation at the top, and supply us with some statistics on the results split by age, smoker status, and BMI groupings? This would be very useful to allow a comparison against an individual reading.

wink
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@geepee, what a lovely post, it brought a small tear to my eye. FWIW, I had an analogous experience on a ski trip, realised that I had some kind of cardiac problem, and ended up with a new aortic valve. The recovery was incredibly quick, again because I was relatively fit. The whole cardiology team at St Thomas' is wonderful beyond praise. I especially admired how joined up it was, from the surgeon through to the girls working in the rehab gym, absolutely everybody was apprised of the whole picture and that wasn't just from reading notes but from being in constant personal communication. So impressive.
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@ScaryG, Laughing
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Quote:

going to high altitudes is not really a good idea if you smoke, are in the age range for cardiovascular problems (over 50), and are overweight.

Ah well, there you go... wink
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geepee wrote:
@Steilhang, I'm hoping to be doing all that at 81 too. After skiing with an 82 year old at the BB, I'm sure it's achievable. wink
ditto!

Katia, that sounds frightening. Hope it gets sorted out.
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http://www.high-altitude-medicine.com/SaO2-table.html

This graph suggests that at 2000m (VT is at that level), average oxygen saturation is 80%. I managed to get my oxygen saturation to 88% by sprinting really hard at the end of a 4 mile run. I was completely out of breath for about a minute.

Anything below 90% is likely to damage organs in the body due to lack of oxygen! The brain could start playing tricks on you....

I think this graph is incorrect, although I have not yet tested my oximiter at altitude yet. I will do some more searches....

http://www.nomadicexperience.com/oxygen-at-high-altitude/

This link gives a good summary of why you should test your oxygen saturation at altitude

http://www.higherpeak.com/altitudechart.html

This link shows where the danger levels are for mountain peaks. Basically, skiing above VT is in danger territory for oxygen saturation levels.
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I read the title & was to reply "that skiing got easier with experience."

Then I read your account @geepee. I gleaned you had had issues but bid not pursue it as you may have wanted to keep it to yourself. Now we know.
You seemed to be in good shape at the BB. A good job it was nothing serious like an open wallet. wink

Bashes tend to test you, I didn't fare so well with the NHS after falling ill at the previous EoSB but I sort of survived & had an enjoyable season this year.

@Katia, lets hope you can get sorted soon, you still young & still have a lot of skiing to do.

Bigtipper wrote:
I managed to get my oxygen saturation to 88% by sprinting really hard at the end of a 4 mile run. I was completely out of breath for about a minute.

I am not surprised you were out of breath, I am bu**ered after climbing a few steps...but in response to the title question: I find skiing easy if I use the lifts to go up & the planks to come down.
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@geepee, Great post & I'm so happy it has gone so well for you Very Happy
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I am so happy to read this post ,great post ! Very Happy
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@geepee, Delighted it all turned out well.

What I find interesting is that, sitting here at my desk, reading all about @genepi's experience it just seems so obvious that there was a major problem. But, it clearly wasn't that obvious to him at the time. I think we are all quite good at dismissing symptoms, failing to add two and two together etc. There's a lesson for all of us there.

On a different note, our village has just bought a defibrillator and a few of us have now had appropriate training. While it is now painfully clear just how little chance there is of saving someone whose heart has actually stopped but it does also feel incredibly empowering that I now feel (reasonably) capable of doing everything that can be done. Training to use a defib is actually only 5% of the training - It's more about keeping someone alive until you get the box there.

If nothing else I now carry a single aspirin with me in my wallet 24/7. Essential item apparently!
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@foxtrotzulu, yes, a lot of the "training" which goes on to enable people to do heart massage etc (manually, without machines) is essentially a waste of time, a bit like the time spent telling you what to do in the unusual event of the aircraft landing on water. That's not to say that it will never, ever, be useful or save a life. Just that there are more productive things to do with the time.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:


While it is now painfully clear just how little chance there is of saving someone whose heart has actually stopped


Well mine was stopped for some time while they cut it about and sewed it back up again and I'm still here. Madeye-Smiley

Yes, I know stopping and restarting it is a bit different under controlled medical conditions. Fortunately.

Madeye-Smiley
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@geepee, perhaps because I come from a medical family, I tend not to be freaked out by medical procedures, but must admit that the thought of being kept alive by a machine, rather than my own heart, did freak me out a bit. Don't know why, really. I did, however, realise very quickly that my problem was cardiac in nature. The medical background and the fact that there is cardiac disease on both sides of my family obviously made me more savvy.
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hearts cope extremely well by being run by machines. Lungs do much less well.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
I think we are all quite good at dismissing symptoms, failing to add two and two together etc. There's a lesson for all of us there.


As I get older (68 ) I get the occasional twinge, ache or pain that wasn't there before - but it is difficult to differentiate between old age wear and tear and something that requires treatment and I struggle to convince myself its worth making a doctors appointment because 'I have an occasional little pain'.
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I had a similar experience with undiagnosed or more accurately under diagnosed, asthma. It had been going on for a couple of years, getting out of breath, low energy, wheezy chest. I was finding walking up hill a strain, I eventually went to the Doctor, I was on about a third of my lung cap and had low blood oxygen. As soon as I started on the medicine I was back to my old self in no time.
I don't know if it's just a bloke thing to avoid the doctors, but especially as you get older it's not wise.
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There is no harm in preventing needing to go to the doctor by understanding and monitoring your own health. Indeed, knowing your own vital statistics over time (like blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse rate) can let you know if your health changes compared to "your normal" and might tell you to visit the doctor sooner rather than later. I say this as some people have abnormal heart rates, because they are very fit. For example when I sleep, my pulse rate falls to 40 bpm. This would normally be of concern if your heart rate at rest is typically about 60 (which is apparently the average for my age of 46). However, for me it is about right considering my resting heart rate is 48-50 bpm. Typlically during sleep, your heart rate falls by 10% from your daily resting normal heart rate.


@codyaitch, I have recently found that wearing compression tube supports over my knees when I sleep means that I tend to have no aches and pains in my knees in the morning the day after a long jog. I think the reason for this is that it seems to improve blood flow to that area during my sleep, the time when the majority of muscle repair and tendon repair occurs in the body. When you are asleep, not using your digestive system, the body diverts its resources into muscle repair. If you send blood to your knees, this will aid their recovery from any activity the day before. I do not use those ultra tight support hoses, just sufficient compression to increase blood flow. It works a treat!
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I so endorse what geepee has said. It was our habit to ski several times each winter usually ending our "season" with a week heli skiing in Canada. Over the last four to five years the amount of heli skiing I could do was tailling off. I started coming back to the lodge just after lunch and then just before lunch, I put this "tiredness" down to increasing age having turned 60. The record of my vertical descent over the last five years illustrates a steady decline and early hoime coming. Three years ago we pushed the boat out and having already booked our usual week heli skiing we were invited to a "big birthday trip" right at the end of the season and decided to have the two trips in one year as we had just retired so could justify this big treat as a retirement gift to ourselves. On our usual early/mid April trip I suffered with serious cold feet and did my by then usual thing of coming home at lunchtime. On the second trip at the end of April after a couple of days I found I couldnt breathe up the mountain and in fact was having difficulty getting up and down the stairs in the lodge. By Tuesday I gave up skiing and had a happy week just enjoying the lodge, comfortable sofa, lot of reading, amazing views and some gentle strolls around when the sun was out. Self diagnosis suggested some sort of chest infection although I wasnt coughing and on return home to a warm spring here in the UK I gradually got better. End of story. Well no - the next spring we went to the lodge as normal and again I went home at lunch time and no further ill effects. That winter a routine blood test at the doctors had me expressed to the haematology/oncology clinic at our County Hospital. Diagnosis is a very rare blood condition whereby exposure to cold causes anti bodies in my system to destroy my red blood cells and cause varying degrees of anaemia. The condition can be secondary to a range of nasty pathologies but in my case is free standing or idiopathic. It all now drops into place. The year of the party was the year we were on our third trip that season and I had been pretty cold during both the previous trips. Recovery from an anaemic "episode" occurs over a period of staying warm. I now realise that, in retrospect, I developed this condition some four or maybe five years ago and that my reducing skiing stamina was related to getting cold, suffering anaemia and therefore not having the energy to ski as I once did. Fortunately I am not greatly affected by the condition and I have made the decision not to ski in the "real" winter in the usual resorts where it is all too likely that the temperature can be really low and one can get stuck on a chair life in a chilling wind. From now on my skiing will be limited to spring heli skiing when the weather is warmer, on a cold morning I can go out only when the morning chill has gone off, the helicopter is warm for the uplifts and I can go home pretty soon if I get tired or the weather deteriorates. This condition is a bummer for a very outdoorsy person but can be managed with the right clothes, a warm house and even daily year round dog walking and skiing are possible with forethought.

Sooooo to cut a long story short, like geepee I would say dont let yourself be lulled into thinking that increasing age is the reason for decreasing energy, dont self diagnose and dont sweep health issues under the carpet but equally dont develop hyoochondria just listen to your body and be aware of changes and see the doctor if you are concerned.
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@FFIRMIN, Great post. All information like this is, I hope good at encouraging people to ski on and on. you're never over the hill and it's not all downhill. wink

Maybe it would be good to make a film about us dinosaurs recovering from such set backs. In my case I was thinking of calling it Thoracic Park. Toofy Grin
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edit: duplicate post.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Sun 5-07-15 13:11; edited 1 time in total
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@FFIRMIN, fascinating. Glad you've sussed it.
@geepee, groan rolling eyes wink
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@geepee,

Thats an excellent story. It is very daunting having surgery , particularly of that magnitude.
Glad it worked out well for you.
Next season to look forwards to.

Jonathan Bell
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^ ^ ^ Agreed. Except we're both already as good as new ie geepee skis about a million times better than I do!
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@Hurtle, You underestimate yourself. You're much more stylish than me. Very Happy

@Jonathan Bell, Yes next season beckons. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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pam w wrote:
@foxtrotzulu, yes, a lot of the "training" which goes on to enable people to do heart massage etc (manually, without machines) is essentially a waste of time, a bit like the time spent telling you what to do in the unusual event of the aircraft landing on water. That's not to say that it will never, ever, be useful or save a life. Just that there are more productive things to do with the time.


Thats a massive blanket statement. I know of two occasions where people I know have done heart compression resus on people that had no output, one for 45 minutes, until the ambulance arrived. In both cases, the person who's heart had stopped was kept 'alive' by the manual heart massage and then by the ambulance crews and fully recovered.

It has to be worth knowing how to do a decent chest compression, just in case. Most places don't have defibs, and even where there is one, not many people know how to/are confident to use them. How much time does it really take to learn? Pretty sure you can do a basic type course in a day (not the full First Aid at Work type thingy) - I'd call that a day well spent?

I've needed to do resus twice due to a collapse and lack of pulse - at the side of the course at the TT and at a Rock n Roll gig. One was a successful recovery, the other not. Had I not had training and willingness to use it, both people would have died.


@ geepee - awesome story. So glad it worked out so well for you Smile


I always took about three times as long to get used to the altitude as everyone else I worked with (6 weeks over the usual 2) but I always put that down to being (on arrival) unfit, overweight and over 40!!! But mid season I was way fitter, way slimmer but, sadly, still over 40!! Sad
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