Article By Dr. Brajmohan Singh
Consultant – Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad
It has been a week since the laughter king, Raju Srivastava passed away due to a cardiac arrest. He was reportedly working out in a gym and was on the treadmill when he collapsed. The same happened with Kannada superstar, Puneeth Rajkumar a year back. He succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest and collapsed while working out in a gym in Bengaluru. In 2015, Puneeth Rajkumar’s elder brother, Shiva Rajkumar, also a Kannada star, collapsed in the gym while working out and suffered a mild heart attack. Fortunately, he survived.
Not just them, quite a large number of actors and sports persons have been known to fall prey to cardiac arrest due to excessive exercise. As we all know, anything too much is not good. And workout is no exception. It has been observed that doing too much high intensity exercise can enhance risks of succumbing to heart attacks and developing heart arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm in the later days of life. Those with genetic cardiac disorders are especially vulnerable to cardiac arrests due to severe exercise.
Finding the link between excessive exercise and heart health
While moderate exercise amps up the heart health, extreme long-term endurance exercise can put extra demands on the cardiovascular system. Excessive exercise often results in development of biomarkers in blood that could be associated with heart damage. While these biomarkers can go away by themselves, when intense exercise is practised over and over again, this temporary damage can result in remodelling of the heart or bring about physical changes like thickening of the heart walls and inflicting injury to the heart.
Also, it has been observed that high intensity exercise can significantly increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrests and even fatality due to cardiac arrest among those with an underlying cardiac condition. Additionally, it can increase the risk of heart rhythm disorders, especially for those who suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition in which heart muscles become abnormally thick and coronary heart disease – damage or disease in the heart’s major blood vessels. Strenuous exercise for a prolonged period of time is known to enhance the chance of developing atrial fibrillation – an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow.
How much exercise is too much for the heart
150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week is a healthy recommendation for the heart. Anything beyond that like running about 60 to 80 miles every week could be damaging for the heart.
Running long distances on pavement or any kind of vigorous exercise that one hasn’t trained for could be injurious to your heart. Also, a high -intensity exercise could be harmful for heart health if one does it without warming up.
Things to do to make sure exercise doesn’t do damage to the heart
Regular, moderate intensity exercise is great for the heart. However, one has to keep certain things in mind before starting an exercise course for preventing heart damage.
A doctor should be consulted: It is essential to consult a doctor before starting a strenuous exercise routine as one must know if they are fit enough to begin. This is important especially for those who are at a considerable risk of developing a cardiac disorder, those who have had cardiac issues earlier or those with an inactive lifestyle earlier.
It is important to start slow: One must start slowly and gradually pull up to different levels of physical activity and not begin intensely all at once. Before walking up hills or jogging and running, one must walk on a level surface for at least 6 to 8 weeks and get used to it. During that course of time, one must observe and make sure they are not facing symptoms like chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness or shortness of breath before advancing to high intensity activities.
Warming up is a must: Before plunging into high intensity exercise, one must spend considerable time to adequately stretch and amp up the heart rate a little bit before starting the exercise routine. Jumping directly into high intensity activity can put one at a greater risk of having a heart attack.
One must get seasoned to the environment: It is important to get customised to the environment in which one exercises. One must be aware of the limitations and be prepared from prior if one plans to exercise at higher altitude. In order to prevent over straining of the body, one must cut exercise accordingly.
Cooling off is a must: Just like warming up before the exercise, it is important to cool off once the exercise is done. The time to cool off allows the heart to return to its resting rhythm. In case one experiences persistent chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness or shortness of breath following a course of exercise, one must talk to the doctor immediately.
While moderate exercise keeps up one’s heart health, it is important for all to be aware of the ill effects of overstraining the body with prolonged high intensity exercise and keep in mind the dos and don’ts of exercise to prevent any kind of heart damage.
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely her / his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of invc news.