As most of you know Will Walker’s career was cut drastically short because of a cardiac arrhythmia known as tachycardia. This is much more common that you may think and Dr André La Gerche wrote a couple fascinating articles for us on exercise and if it’s good for the heart (read the Q&A follow-up here).

Paceline

written by Steve Quinn

Paceline founder Steve Quinn was 35 when he was diagnosed with two heart rhythm disorders: Atrial Flutter and Atrial Fibrillation (AF) –  the world’s most common cardiac arrhythmia.  These diseases are hidden killers:

- One in four people over the age of 40 will suffer from a cardiac arrhythmia.
- They are seven times more likely to suffer a stroke.
- They are three times more likely to suffer heart failure.
- The condition is responsible for more than 450 000 hospitalisations each year and costs the Australian economy  $1.25 billion per year.

Steve and his bunch of 20 will set out for this year’s ‘Paceline’ charity ride, covering 1200km from Canberra to Melbourne via the high country taking in Kosciusko, Falls Creek & Hotham, all within 8 days.

Paceline focuses on two main objects, namely:

- Raising awareness about cardiac arrhythmias.
- Raising much needed funds for research into a cure for cardiac arrhythmias.

Endurance athletes seem particularly susceptible to cardiac arrhythmias and much more research is required in order to understand the causes and who is at risk.

Former Australian Elite Road Race Champion and GreenEdge Rider Development Officer,  Will Walker knows this only too well. At 23 Will’s career ended due to an arrhythmia just when it was about to really take off.

In his role as Paceline Ambassador Will works tirelessly to help with raising awareness and finding a cure for these terrible diseases.

“Being involved with Paceline allows me to continue to be involved with cycling at a grassroots level and to work towards finding a cure for the condition that has changed my life and the lives of thousands of other Australians.  Steve and I also want to show other cardiac arrhythmia sufferers that, with careful management and treatment, you can lead a happy and fulfilling life. We can still ride 1100km through our astonishingly beautiful country”.

So what is an arrhythmia?

Normally the heart’s  electrical impulse moves from top to bottom and your  heart beats rhythmically, however with an arrhythmia the heart “fires” its electrical current erratically and in different places within the heart muscle. This causes  the heart to beat erratically and often to speed up uncontrollably.

Over time this can lead to heart failure or sudden death due to the ongoing strain put on the heart. To give some perspective, a normal heart beats at between 60-100bpm at rest and most people raise their heart rate when exercising to somewhere between 110-180bpm, depending on effort.   Sitting reading this article may be like most days when you aren’t even aware that your heart is beating,  so it can be very confronting to go from an unnoticeable 60bpm sitting at a desk to in excess of 250bpm  without moving. Not only does that make you feel exhausted, but it’s downright worrying when you become aware of every beat your heart makes and the ones it is making aren’t exactly doing what they should.

With so many people affected, either directly or indirectly, it’s amazing that these disorders aren’t part of everyday public debate or at least high in the social consciousness, especially given that arrhythmias affect both men and women equally.

The Ride

Every year Paceline takes on a route in Australia that covers 1200km over 8 days and this format is set for a reason.  Doing a ride like this enables Steve, Will and the Paceline crew the opportunity to bring riders close to walking in their shoes  and some understanding of living with an arrhythmia. How so…well over the duration of the ride each rider will raise their heart for a sustained period of time, they will also feel the fatigue associated with your heart working so hard and that fatigue will last through the periods of rest. Lastly, while feeling like this they will have to interact with their riding buddies in a acceptable manner and get up and ride and function every day.

Having said that they will also be part of a fantastic ride through parts of Australia often only seen out of the window of a speeding car or aircraft and will develop friendships with a great group of people.

They will also have helped raise funds for research into arrhythmias which will go to two world class research institutes here in Australia The Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute (Melb) and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (Syd).

So what are the symptoms and what should you do?

Common symptoms are palpitations, dizziness and fatigue. However, if you feel things aren’t right its best to see your doctor.

For more information go to www.paceline.com.au or follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Alternately, choose a rider to support or make a donation that will help find a cure for cardiac arrhythmias at http://pacelineride2011.gofundraise.com.au/