How Can Myeloma Patients Suffering From Shortness of Breath Exercise?

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How can multiple myeloma patients exercise safely? How does blood count impact physical activity? Melanie House, a physical therapist from the University of Iowa Health Care, shares what patients should be aware of before doing aerobic exercises and precautions patients with a low hemoglobin should take. Tune in to find out more.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank AbbVie, Inc., Celgene Corporation, and Takeda Oncology for their support.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

We have highs and lows with any of these blood cancers. So, you and I were talking before the program about people aware of their numbers, their blood test numbers. So, talk about that a little bit as to us having a clear idea of where we are, not just do we have a lesion in a bone somewhere but about our blood.

Melanie House:           

So, the most common complaint that I hear people say is, “I’m just so tired or I get short of breath when I’m doing stairs or walking.” And I think there were even some participants today that sent in questions asking about, “What can I do to address my shortness of breath?”

And the first thing I think about as a clinician is where are your numbers at for your hemoglobin or your red blood cell count? Because our red blood cells they’re the vehicles that actually deliver oxygen to our muscles and to our brain. And one of the most important muscles that must get oxygen is actually your heart. 

And so, it is important to recognize whether you’re anemic—if you’re anemic, I can tell you right now, there’s not a single reference that I can find that would support you or support me prescribing you vigorous aerobic exercise because anemia means that you’re at about half the normal amount of your red blood cells yet you’re trying to do vigorous exercise. 

The muscles that are doing the work are going to aggressively be pulling those oxygen molecules off of the red blood cells but you only have half the number of red blood cells that you should have to deliver oxygen. 

So, it doesn't matter if your oxygen saturation probe says you're 100 percent saturated that just means that those half of your red blood cells that you have happen to be fully loaded but there's not enough of them to safely do vigorous aerobic exercise. 

And your heart could suffer the consequences. I've had a patient who actually did induce a heart attack just from walking at a time when their hemoglobin was very low and when their blood pressure was low.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on February 8, 2019