BY Stephen Nartey, 12:20pm February 28, 2024,

Texas bodybuilder hospitalized 20 times due to rare heart condition triggered by drinking cold water

Photo: Instagram/ifbbpro_frank

A 35-year-old Texas bodybuilder, Franklin Aribeana, has been hospitalized more than 20 times due to a rare heart condition triggered by drinking cold water. Describing his experience, Aribeana explained feeling a “double thud” in his chest after gulping cold water.

This condition, termed heart-related hydrophobia, has led to frequent medical emergencies. The Houston native and member of the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation first experienced the concerning symptom at age 18 while at the gym.

He recalled feeling a “noticeable thud” while drinking water, passing out shortly afterward, according to the New York Post. After 15 years and 25 doctor’s appointments, Aribeana finally connected the dots and identified the seemingly harmless trigger for his condition: ice-cold water.

The realization dawned on him one day at the gym when he noticed his heart racing after taking a sip of water. Concerned by this unexpected reaction, Aribeana sought medical examination to delve into the paradoxical nature of his response to what is typically considered life’s essential elixir, the Post reported.

Genetic testing unveiled surprising results for him, revealing a genetic anomaly leading to atrial fibrillation, a condition where electrical signals disrupt normal heart rhythm. Doctors attributed Aribeana’s arrhythmia to cold water stimulating the vagus nerve, responsible for regulating heart rate.

This irregular reaction, deemed exceedingly rare, was linked to the “diving reflex,” where cold water exposure typically slows heart rate to conserve energy. However, in Aribeana’s case, this response persisted even after removing exposure to cold. Aribeana’s preexisting condition, exacerbated by the diving reflex, led to erratic heartbeats and plummeting blood pressure, resulting in fainting spells.

This “water allergy” worsens during high-intensity workouts like weightlifting, with Aribeana recalling an incident where he fainted during one hot summer day while on a golf course.

“I took a sip of cold water, and the next thing you know, literally palpitations out of my chest,” he recalled. “They took off my shirt, and you could see my heart pounding out of my chest, and then I passed out.”

Aribeana’s unique reaction to cold water allowed doctors to diagnose his condition early, unlike many sufferers who experience subtler symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

His doctor, Khashayar Hematpour, highlighted that this early diagnosis was crucial. Aribeana underwent an ablation procedure, which successfully treated his water-induced heart issues by cauterizing the connection between the vagus nerve and the heart.

Following the operation, Aribeana has fully recovered without any hospital stays, although he continues to take medication to manage his atrial fibrillation.

“Franklin is a phenomenal individual!” gushed Dr. Hematpour. “He’s got a lot of drive! He was very much on top of his treatment.”

The good news is that the bodybuilder no longer faints at the taste of water.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 28, 2024


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