Q: Is the existence of a heart murmur a  problem when tightlacing? ---Kellie (7/26/07)

A: Heart murmurs are heard when there are "leaks" inside the heart through valves or between chambers. They are common in early age but some remain into adulthood. Depending on what the cause is or the degree of it, and if symptoms are present, insufficient cardiac efficiency can be the result, e.g., if your stamina is compromised, and quick stair climbing or exercise are not possibly because of it, then tightlacing, depending on the degree of it, can present transitional problems. That is, during lacing on, our unlacing; and this is made worse if either one is done too rapidly. 

After lacing into a corset for the first 15 to 20min, blood pressure and heart rate may rise, which is normal, but in a healthy individual these will settle back.

Depending on the degree of "leakage", cardiac output maybe limited such that this initial stress is an issue. Be your own monitor. If the "leakage" is between the right and left chambers, oxygenation is compromised and the heart has to work harder to compensate.

A corset that is laced in slowly and in stages, limits this transitional stress in general, regardless if cardiac function is limited.

A helpful notion maybe that a corset in itself does not necessarily create significant pressure increases, but tends to replace background muscle tone, yet it will be experienced as skin pressure, as that is where the corset is working through. Muscle generated pressure is not always felt as it works below the skin.


Q: I am a 67 year old straight male who wears a corset occasionally.  I was just diagnosed with a heart murmur during a routine physical. I am relatively fit and active and am within 5# of the same weight (5’9” 165#) I have been since 1969.  After the initial diagnosis I went to a cardiologist, who did a stress test and gave me an echocardiogram, which showed a prolapse in the mitral valve due to one of the anchor sinews breaking away from the valve. (The Dr gave me the medical name but I forgot).

I have had no symptoms and generally keep a BP of around 123/70, but may go 147/80 or higher with stress. The doctor stated that I could do my regular exercises and work and come back for a recheck in 6 months, but to call immediately IF I experience any symptoms, like shortness of breath or dizziness.

My question is whether or not you think the corset, if worn snugly and then I have to bend over with it on to tie my shoes or otherwise reach down, could increase the intra-abdominal pressure to have an adverse affect on my heart, which could be associated with a mitral valve prolapse? I don’t consider myself a “tight-lacer” but I do wear it snugly with up to a 4” waist reduction. I have been wearing it occasionally for the last 20 years and have put it on for up to 48 hours with no recognizable adverse affects or symptoms other than developing a light cough after I take it off. Usually, I like to wear it when driving for long periods in my semi because of the support it gives when sitting and it is comfortable enough for me to sleep in.  ---Bill (2/1/12)

A:In your case where there is a degree of cardiac deficiency, the operating range of the heart is reduced. The operating range is the range from minimum to maximum cardiac output. When valves leak, or the muscle itself is reduced in function, the range is reduced, and the ability for the heart to support sustained exertion is reduced as well.

In this, the leaking valve will reduce the maximum output. As you have noted, when the limit is reached, the demand for oxygen and blood flow is greater than what the heart can produce, and dizziness and or shortness of breath follow. The capacity of the heart can be improved with exercise, but a leaking mitral valve will always reduce the maximum, i.e. the dizziness etc would be experienced sooner. On the counter, a sedentary individual with high blood pressure may have a low ceiling to begin with, i.e. limited range, and even with perfect valves, this individual would experience his or her limit sooner than the fit individual with the leaking valve.

The corset will provide support and posture benefit. It will also reduce the range of certain movements, and the general solution is to not bend over standing up while wearing it, say to tie shoe laces. Find alternatives for these compromising motions. The temporary increase in blood pressure when bending over while standing is experienced by everyone, corset wearing or not, simply because there are no venous valves aiding return flow, placing greater demands on the heart's reserve, and thus stressing it and approaching the limit sooner.

123/70 at rest and 147/80 with stress are very good numbers. To prevent issues, avoid high peak load situations, e.g. kneel down to tie shoe laces.


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