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Heart failure

Sports, hobbies and activities

People with heart failure may have less energy to put into sports, hobbies and other activities. Many of those we spoke to found that being unable to do things that they had always enjoyed was difficult to cope with, for instance a man who had always produced amateur shows said he resented having to give up the theatre and was not motivated to start a new hobby. On the other hand others who felt well enough to try something new often found they felt better for it.

 

He very much regrets not being able to produce shows anymore.

He very much regrets not being able to produce shows anymore.

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 53
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I have people who come in and I go out with my wife, she's still choreographing for certain amateur clubs so I'm still on the circuit. But, where I was involved in the past I'm now known as [Wife]'s driver or the guy that puts the knobs down on the tape recorder. Not, I'm not involved at all and I do, I do feel isolated, I feel as it that's all gone. I think there's, I could still do what I did in the past which is produce, people say well there's a stress involved in that but it's a good stress, it's a different stress, it's a buzz, it's an adrenalin, it's a lift. But I, whether people are frightened to say can I take a chance, he may pop his clogs half way through a show! I don't know but I do, I do miss that terribly. I miss my work in so much as I miss being with people. I don't miss my job, that's.. for fools and idiots, you can keep that but I miss the company I had. I feel a day's a very long time here. 

I go out with people, I don't go by myself.  And cheap seats are no use anymore because they're top of the house and I can't get upstairs and the theatres don't have lifts. So... but I love the theatre - I was at the theatre last night - be it a community theatre or a wee small town hall, I like the theatre but that's the only real pleasure I've got. 

And there's no drive, I mean I have sent away for libs, I still read shows, but that's just to pass my time, I can't do anything with it, whereas if I was doing a show I was always planning, there was lighting, there was costumes, there was sets, it takes up a lot of time, too much of my time in the past I don't know. But it, there's a hole, there's a big hole there that I can't fill at this moment, I can't get myself motivated nor am I allowed to do anything so that's, its crazy. 

 

Her keep fit class has motivated her and improved her well-being.

Her keep fit class has motivated her and improved her well-being.

Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 55
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...because when the 6 months come up, I'm sort of almost waiting for it to happen. You know I'm thinking is it tonight, it's got to be, you know we've gone over. But that's actually gone at the moment because I've passed the 6 months, and because I've actually lost some weight as well, I've lost two stone in weight now, you know which is part of it. I just feel much more motivated and I can work out without getting breathless, I can do a workout at the keep fit class. I keep going as long as other people, you know if not longer, I'm very determined when I get onto it!  I'm very competitive when I'm on a keep fit floor, I can tell you!  

I actually felt I was probably doing too much because I'm only supposed to let my pulse go up so far, not above something - which I won't mention. But I actually checked it out with the cardiologist and my consultant and they said, 'No, you're looking really well, you do it'. And it's very much about my well-being; you know what makes me feel good. And I've said to my husband, you know if something happens when I'm doing my keep fit, it would be awful for the class, but at least you'll know I was motivated, happy, active and feeling very good about myself!  Which for me is very important. 

Most people said they missed gardening, though few had given it up completely. People talked about simplifying their gardens and having to ask for help from friends and family. More demanding gardening such as heavy digging, mowing or hedge cutting had made some feel breathless; for instance one man found he had to rest after a bout of strimming.

 

He enjoyed strimming his lawn but it tired him out.

He enjoyed strimming his lawn but it tired him out.

Age at interview: 64
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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Everything! The fact that I was active. As you can see, [wife] does all the gardening and previously I would do all that and enjoy every minute. The only thing I've done in the garden is about 3 or 4 weeks ago when she got the strimmer out and I strimmed the front lawn. And that was a great lot of pleasure but then I had to sit down, and it took me a couple of hours or so to get enough strength to carry on, which is silly, really, isn't it?

Many people continued to enjoy the kind of sports and activities that can be done at a slower pace, for instance a man who had always enjoyed fishing had carried on with it even though he needed help to carry his fishing tackle and took longer to land his catches. Another man who had always kept fit by ballroom dancing and golf realised he could no longer dance but thought he would be able to play golf again. Many others enjoyed going out for walks as long as they avoided walking too fast and walking uphill.

 

He still enjoys fishing even though it takes him time to recover from landing his catch.

He still enjoys fishing even though it takes him time to recover from landing his catch.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 64
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No, no. I still get enjoyment out of it, yes. The same with the fishing, I mean, I go fishing and I catch carp. Now carp are strong animals, especially the ones I catch. And I had one the other day, it weighed about 6 pounds and it took me ten minutes to get it in and fifteen minutes lying on the bank recovering [laughs] You know what I mean?  But it's great that I can do it, I was happy to do it.

Well, the thing is carrying the kit [pause]. Well the chaps just come and pick the kit up, 'leave it, you just walk to your bag and we'll bring your kit round' you know. It might be only 20 or 30 yards but carrying, it's a fair weight, you know. It could be eighty pounds, ninety pounds and even if you do it two trips that means I've got to walk twice as far, and I can't walk a long way. See mainly, it's not the out of breathlessness that does me, it's the cramp that does me, walking. But once I'm there, the cramp makes me out of breath, if you know what I mean, because I'm struggling. It's a bit of both. 

 

He can no longer do ballroom dancing but he hopes to play golf.

He can no longer do ballroom dancing but he hopes to play golf.

Age at interview: 81
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 79
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It hasn't affected it really, in the sense that what I do - of course I can't dance like we used to do. Although we go to a dance, where both of us were good dancers, ballroom dancers - and since I've had my heart attack even after the first one, when I had a very good quality of life, we'd go to a dance and dance and I'd dance round. Once round the floor and I'd be a bit fatigued, feel a bit of pressure across the chest in some cases, and I'd sit down, but after sitting down and missing a dance, have the same again, another dance. But during the holiday I've just had, I'm afraid I got up and tried to have two or three goes at dancing and couldn't. Just had that one of those, waiting two years for the holiday and it was just too much. But having said that, I could still walk about, I could still talk, still eat very well, still got my weight back.

I miss being as active and not playing my golf like I used to, and that really hurt because I used to be a good golfer, and it's only two years ago or 15 months ago and I used to go round the county with that, I used to love that, three times a week. That was all my sporting and that's all I needed to do really. But at my age now there's not many up at the golf course there of 80+ that do play, but if I go back and can get back and if I can do nine holes, once or twice a week I would be satisfied.

 

Isabella still walks down the hill to the shops but takes the bus on her way up.

Isabella still walks down the hill to the shops but takes the bus on her way up.

Age at interview: 85
Sex: Female
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Well we used to have a dog [laugh].

Ok. You walked him?

So we walked dogs. And now you are on about walking this is, I think I mentioned there is a lane at this end here because it was all countryside this at one time. We were the last houses one time. And I don’t know how far it would be, just about over a mile I think is the shopping centre down there or a few shops and its part of a new estate. And I walk, what I do now I’m still walking but not as far. I walk down this lane as it is because close to the end there’s allotments off it and gardens from back of the houses at the other side. I walk down the lane. Do my shopping, get the bus back and get off at the corner. 

Ok.

So I’m not walking uphill because it’s downhill there. So going to the shops is walking downhill so I don’t walk back uphill carrying shopping. I get the bus.

And that is a one mile walk?

I would say just over a mile if. Yes I would say a mile yes. And the other way, is what we call, is across down the bottom of this hill. We have from here where you came up, you see, you climbed up is a hill. So I, it’s quite nice walking down but it’s coming back up that’s the problem. And so then you can cross the road and you are going into the village and you shop in the village et cetera and I can get the bus back. So I do that. I walk down because it’s downhill but I know I’d be struggling for that walk back up and I get the bus.
 

Brian continues playing golf but rather than walking he drives around in a buggy.

Brian continues playing golf but rather than walking he drives around in a buggy.

Age at interview: 76
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 70
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From about 2005/6, for the last five years or so, there’s been a steady deterioration. The main problem has been breathing problems as my heart has become weaker and during that time, my ability to play golf disappeared completely. Now I have to say, I still play but I use a buggy, I can’t walk. My walking limitation which, a matter of four/five years ago, I walked the complete golf course four/five times a week. Now 200 yards maximum, so the only way I can play golf is jump in the buggy and drive around. So really my main limitation is lack of physical strength. No matter what I try to do, if I do a little odd job around the house or garden, once I start doing it, within a minute or so, I get muscular aching and breathlessness and I have to rest. So I’m fairly immobile. 
A few people wanted to prove to themselves that they could do the same sports or activities as before, even if it meant taking risks. One woman for instance decided without telling anyone in her family that she was going to walk up a hill in the Lake District unaccompanied. She did what she set out to do and felt proud of having accomplished it though she did experience some breathlessness. A 34 year old man who had always enjoyed water sports decided to go scuba diving on holiday without letting anyone know he had heart problems. He ran out of breath during the dive and only just managed to reach the surface. (He was advised afterwards to follow safer sports).
 

She did a steep walk in the Lake District even though she was breathless.

She did a steep walk in the Lake District even though she was breathless.

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 53
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Well I was quite shocked really. It is quite a shock. But apart from that, you've just got to learn to cope with it really. There's nothing you can do about it so... you either become an invalid and think of all the things you can't do, or you get on with your life and think of the things that you can do. And try to do the things that you did before, even if it's just that little bit slower, which I did! [laughs] 

There's quite a good walk around here, in the Lake District and it's quite steep but it's quite short as well, and I used to like to do that walk. So one day last year I decided I felt alright so I went with a bottle of water, and I was also puffing and blowing, and I don't think I would have taken any friends with me because they'd probably have been a bit frightened! But I just stopped when I wanted to stop and I took a bottle of water, and I did that walk!  I was determined that I was going to get to the top, and I did and it was fine.  It just took a little bit longer than normal, and a little bit more puffing and blowing than it normally would have done but I got there [smiles].

 

Describes his last scuba dive when he almost died.

Describes his last scuba dive when he almost died.

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 35
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I started doing scuba diving in the early '80s and I loved it, I loved the sport and I kept on doing it. I took my full license in 1985, and you know it was a very passionate sport to me. And it's very sociable as well because you go out in groups, meet new people every time you go out in a boat, and it's just beautiful.

I stopped doing it since I had the heart attack till 1995. 1995 I tried it again and I managed successfully and that was a great achievement, it was you know something else, just like I had my life back again!

And went again three times to different diving spots met new people, had a great time, you know it's just a great thing. And you go down, and everyone comes out and speaks about the experience and what did you see and you know what did you find and where did you go, blah, blah.

Last time we, last time I did it was in my, last year in our honeymoon, when we went to our honeymoon. We went to an Island called Phuket in Thailand and despite my wife's concern, I said, "No I'm fine and I'm fit enough to do it and let's do it."  She refused to do it and I went out with a bunch of people. She was with us on the boat, we dived twice for about two hours and it was fantastic. This year my wife was 5 months' pregnant, two months ago, I said, "Listen we will be grounded after the birth of our baby, actually in two months time we will be grounded, so let's do it!" We went to the Red Sea, a very nice resort in Egypt called Sharamsheik in the Red Sea, and I went on my scuba diving experience. Went down with an Italian diver you have to go down in couples at least. So we went down and at around 18 metres depth, which was normal to me before, I felt very uncomfortable - very, very uncomfortable - and I started ascending, started going up slowly.  

[laughs] I don't know what happened, at the 12 metres level on the way up, at 12  metres level, from the 18 to the 12 metre level suddenly I ran out of air completely although my tank was full but I just couldn't breathe any more, just literally couldn't breathe!

So pushed myself up and tried to just catching my breath and I thought there's something with my regulator. I grabbed my spare one and I tried to catch a breath from it and I just couldn't. I tapped on the other diver, the Italian diver, and I, as she turned I just grabbed her spare regulator and I tried it and there was literally nothing, just nothing!

And the options I had, was either die here, or you've got 10% chance to make it to the surface, because you know with sudden ascent the lungs can expand, and blow. The ears can expand and blow, and the chance is 10% to make it to the surface, this is my chance, I don't want to die here, let me try and make it to the surface.  

And without, I mean without a second thought, I just did a sudden ascent - I think I fainted in the last metre or two before getting to the surface. Made it to the surface, coughed a lot and then managed to catch a breath, slowly, very slowly.

She made, the Italian diver made it to the surface, 6 or 7 minutes later because she had to stand at 5 metre level every, every 5 metres so she had to stand at the 5 metre for three minutes and then two more minutes on the two or three metres level before coming up to the surface. 

So she came out, she tried to shout out at the boat and they couldn't hear, they were about 100 meters away. She inflated my jacket which I didn't even think about it, I was just you know trying to catch my breath.  

So I stayed

Doing activities with others and keeping in touch with the world beyond home and family was important and several people kept up social activities even though they couldn't manage as much as before. A woman who had always been active in her local parent teacher association said she had to resign as chairperson but continued to bake cakes for her local primary school to raise money.

 

She doesn't want to give up her work for the local PTA though she resigned as chairperson.

She doesn't want to give up her work for the local PTA though she resigned as chairperson.

Age at interview: 63
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 61
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I wasn't working, obviously, because I haven't been able to work for a while due to arthritis, not the heart failure. But I used to go to school a lot more than I do now, because I do voluntary work at the local primary school, and I used to go 2 or 3 times a week. But now I just go once a week because I like to keep fund-raising. I used to be Chairperson of the PTA but I stopped that 18 months ago, well, just when I found out I had heart failure because they had meetings and different things that I used to go to on an evening. And it's just energy; I just couldn't be bothered. I still bake because we have a tuck shop at school, and I go every Friday morning and sell the produce to make money for the school, it's like everything else, funded by us. (We've got quite a lot; we've got '7000-8000 in the bank which I think is a good thing. Not due to me entirely (laughing) some of the other people work as well). But the kids love the tuck shop and everything is home made and the little 4 or 5 year olds come with up with their purses and buy the goods, and they think it's brilliant. And I don't want to pack that in because it's sitting down selling the things. I know you have to bake them but I bake the easy things like chocolate crispy cakes and things like that (laughing) but I wouldn't like to stop going. And the girls that I work with know that I can't lift things and things like that so, I don't do anything.  

 

 

 

 

Isabella regularly meets the friends she used to work with all those years ago.

Isabella regularly meets the friends she used to work with all those years ago.

Age at interview: 85
Sex: Female
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Yeah. Well I was a Samaritan for over 40 years so I was very heavily involved in that and I was deputy director for the branch and visitors of the branches and then travelled around. So I was heavily involved in that for several years, a lot of years actually. And then now retired, when I retired from that I, I’m still friendly with them and I still have friends in there and we go out once a month, a group of females. We have our nights out, social evenings out. So there is a lot of friendship came from being a member.

Ok

And it’s continued and which is nice. And so I retired from that when my husband was so poorly as well and it was the right time. It was funny because people say, ‘Don’t you miss it?’ I said, ‘No the time was right, you know when I did it’. And there are social events obviously in which I always get an invitation to go and join in and I still have friends in there and we meet up and we go out for a meal once a month [ha] on an evening. And so it’s quite a lot of spin offs from having put in work. And the other thing I go, I used to go to water aerobics every week. That used to get exercise there but I did find that quite heavy going the last year. So I don’t. I must admit I had to pack that in because I thought, ‘I’m puffed here all the time I’m coming out. It’s not worth it.’ And I meet up with some friends who still go, some who don’t. So after they’ve finished at lunchtime we have a coffee at that and a natter [laugh] and socialise.
Others found that there was more time for them to explore other hobbies such as painting and drawing which were said to be relaxing and therapeutic. Others had taken up hobbies that were less tiring such as model making, cake decorating, relaxation classes, art groups, church groups, patient support groups and the Women's Institute all of which were said to be enjoyable.





Last reviewed April 2016.

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