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Sports & Cardio Health

  • Exercise for a Healthy Heart

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    Running, swimming, participation in sporting activities – researchers have long advocated that staying physically active contributes to a long, healthy and productive life. However, not many of us are aware that many parts of the body work together in sync to facilitate body movement. Apart from the outer skeletal structure supported by an intricate network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues supporting our body’s movement; the inner coordination of blood and oxygen flow, body fuel supply, signal coordination between nerve cells and the brain, and many other biochemical processes play a significant role in enabling us to go about our daily and sporting activities.

    One such important organ is the heart. Here, we explore the importance of the heart during exercise, sudden cardiac arrest – a condition that appears to affect even healthy, sporty individuals, and the preventive measures available.

  • Effects of Exercise on the Heart

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    The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood throughout the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues while removing carbon dioxide and waste. When we exercise, the heart rate increases due to the heart pumping more vigorously to circulate more oxygen (via the blood) to the surrounding muscles at work. This results in increased blood flow, and also an increase in the blood volume returning to the heart. With regular exercise over time, the heart adapts to the increased blood flow and the left heart becomes enlarged. This allows the left heart to hold more blood and more blood is ejected with each heartbeat, even during rest. Hence, the resting heart rate of a sporty individual is lower as each beat delivers a larger volume of blood, and fewer beats are needed.

  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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    We sometimes hear about sudden, tragic deaths of seemingly fit and healthy people during exercise. Such unfortunate incidents are often attributed to sudden cardiac arrest. Although this condition may be rare, adequate precautions can be taken to prevent it.

    Is cardiac arrest the same as a heart attack?

    A cardiac arrest is usually confused with a heart attack, however, both are markedly different. A heart attack is caused by the blood flow to the heart being blocked. It is thus a problem with blood circulation. A cardiac arrest is caused by confused signal impulses in the heart, resulting in the heart beating irregularly or stopping unexpectedly. It is thus a problem with the ‘electrical signals’ that determine how the heart beats.

    What is cardiac arrest?

    Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs without warning, triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that results in an irregular heartbeat (a condition known as arrhythmia). This disrupts the heart’s pumping action, and hence affects the blood supply to surrounding tissues and organs such as the brain. Within seconds, the affected person may lose consciousness with loss of pulse, and this may result in death should treatment not be administered within minutes.

    What causes cardiac arrest?

    Cardiac arrest can be caused by a variety of heart diseases, but is most commonly associated with acquired or congenital malformations of the heart. Intense sporting activities may trigger sudden cardiac arrest, or stimulate the progression of the condition for susceptible individuals.

    Can cardiac arrest be prevented?

    It is important to be aware of any heart abnormalities you may have, and doctors recommend to undergo a heart screening before taking part in any form of vigorous or competitive sport, such as a long-distance marathon. Known as pre-participation screening, this can help detect any problems with the heart and minimise the risk of sudden heart-related conditions in the midst of exertion. Speak to your doctor to find out more on the screening options available.

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