Sport Cardiology BC hopes to find out why athletes can suffer from heart problems

It seems counterintuitive that an athlete would suffer from cardiovascular problems, but often seemingly healthy individuals can fall prey to unexpected health problems while competing.

Sports Cardiology BC, with ethics approval from UBC, is working to create a database of testing done on masters athletes — those older than 35 — in the hope of evaluating their risk of a heart attack.

“The question that is being raised as of recent is, like anything in life, is too much of a good thing bad for you? We know that exercise in moderation has tremendous health benefits. What we don’t know is if too much exercise has deleterious effects on the heart,” Dr. James McKinney told Rebecca Zandbergen on Radio West.

McKinney — a cardiologist with Sports Cardiology B.C. — will travel the province with other doctors to look for candidates who participate in sport at least three times per week and are over the age of 35. They hope to recruit 1000 participants to gather enough data for their research.

What they hope to find

“We know when we look at masters athletes, which we define as anyone over the age of 35, that if they were to die suddenly during sport, most likely it’s from coronary artery disease,” McKinney said.

The study is designed to see if those who train ‘excessively’ have a higher risk of coronary artery disease than the average person.

“We want to see how many athletes over the age of 35 actually have these conditions and who are at high risk of these conditions and those that we do see have these conditions, provide them treatment and care to decrease the risk of having a cardiac event,” he said.

Similar studies

A previous European study looked at sedentary people with the same risk factors as athletes.

“Both groups underwent a CT scan to see how much calcium they had in their arteries. The athletes, surprisingly, had more calcium in their arteries, which is indicative of coronary disease, than the sedentary age match controls,” Mckinney said.

So does that mean that exercise is bad for the heart? Not exactly…

“A lot of times we feel that the amount of physical activity protects them [the athletes] from other bad habits they may be doing. For example if an athlete has high cholesterol, but has an excellent marathon time and they’re very fit and they look the picture of health, physicians may be more reluctantly to treat their risk factors more aggressively.”

For the original article click here: CBC News