Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals he got a pacemaker

The former Governor of California hopes his story will give others the courage to face their health battles and feel less alone.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Posted at 1:06 PM, Mar 27, 2024

Arnold Schwarzenegger is opening up about getting a pacemaker.

The former Governor of California and once-pro bodybuilder shared the news in his latest podcast episode that dropped Monday.

"Last Monday, I had surgery for a pacemaker and became a little bit more of a machine," he said on "Arnold's Pump Club." "I have to tell you, just saying this to all of you goes against so much of my upbringing in Austria, where nobody ever talked about medical issues. Everything related to health care was kept to yourself."

Schwarzenegger, 76, was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, which is a type of abnormality in the aortic valve in the heart, according to John Hopkins Medicine. In the case of a bicuspid aortic valve, the valve has only two small parts instead of the normal three.

Schwarzenegger said he was advised by doctors that it was time for a pacemaker after years of heart monitoring and checkups. He had scar tissue from a previous surgery that made his heart beat irregular. 

The actor thanked his team at the Cleveland Clinic for staying on top of his genetic heart condition and for a successful procedure. He said his mom and grandmother also had the same abnormality but were not as fortunate.

"My mother and her mother's bicuspid aortic valves killed them," Schwarzenegger said.

"I'm still here because of medical innovation and being very diligent about staying in touch with my doctors and listening to them," he said.

Schwarzenegger said his mother had refused to get a valve replacement, but at the time, treatment looked very different. He said her only option had been open heart surgery, but now the same procedure can be done as a noninvasive surgery where patients are discharged on the same day.

Schwarzenegger had his valves replaced for the first time in 1997, but at the time, open heart surgery was also his only option. He was told the valves would last him 12 to 15 years, but he was fortunate enough to go 21 years without needing another surgery.

In 2018, a noninvasive procedure was offered to him, but his surgery, which replaced only one valve, became open heart surgery because of "a little screwup," Schwarzenegger said. His other valve was replaced in 2020.

This time around, the noninvasive procedure worked seamlessly, and Schwarzenegger said he is feeling great.

He said he could've kept this information private but hopes his story gives people courage and hope with their own health struggles and makes them feel less alone.

"If you're putting something off out of fear, I hope I inspire you to listen to your doctors and take care of yourself," Schwarzenegger said.

The fitness mogul won't be able to resume serious workouts for a while, but he was able to attend a major environmental event the same week as his procedure. He said he'll be fine to return to filming for his Netflix show "Fubar" next month.

The U.K.'s National Health Service says strenuous activity should be avoided for four to six weeks after getting a pacemaker. Those who play contact sports should take caution to avoid collisions and may want to opt for a protective pad.

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