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Heart attacks during sport – Do I need to worry?

Bike Run SwimThere have been a lot of high profile sportsmen collapsing recently, with most of them ultimately dieing. Possibly the highest profile incident was the collapse of Bolton Wanderers mid-fielder Fabrice Muamba, who is fortunately pulling through at the time of writing. This is just as tragic for the families of the sportsmen/women as it is for the families and friends of anyone that dies, no matter what they were doing or how fit they are. What we shouldn’t immediately do is instantly assume that sport and exercise is bad for us. Statistically speaking you are much less likely to have circulation and heart problems if you are fit and healthy, eating a balanced diet and not taking too many risks. However, no matter who you are there is also a chance that you have a physiological issue that could cause you to collapse at any time or you could simply be involved in a tragic accident. Just because we hear of quite a few teenagers and the occasional famous sportsman collapsing there is no corresponding increase of risk to you.

In short keep exercising and keep eating properly to maximise your chances at a long and healthy life. Ultimately very few of us know when we are going to “check-out” so keep on living and enjoying your lives for as long as you possibly can and take suitable precautions where necessary. Here are a few tips:

  • Everything in moderation, whether it is food, exercise, supplements etc. Of course we all occasionally over do it in one way or another, just don’t do it too often. I still mildly regret eating an entire tube of Pringles as a substitute for my main evening meal one day last week while travelling, however most days my diet is very well balanced so there will be no long term effects that I have to worry about, beyond the mild stomach discomfort in the hours after indulging!
  • Take it easy when you are ill or tired, missing a week or two of training will not affect your long term health, fitness and performance.
  • Figure out something healthy that relaxes you. I personally find that exercise is a great way to calm my inner demons whether I am walking, running, cycling or swimming.
  • Always ensure that you can be seen when out and about whether it is with bright clothing or bright lights, whatever is suitable for the conditions. Personally I favour going mountain biking or trail running more in the winter rather than using public roads, as I’m much less likely to get knocked off when the visibility is poor.
  • Always ensure that you can be found i.e. tell a loved one your route and stick to it, or consider carrying something like the Spot Messenger so you can send out an alert if you get in to trouble.
  • If in doubt see your GP and make sure that you don’t under-emphasise the problem, remember your symptoms were bad enough to get you into the GP’s office in the first place.

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