Intense exercise can double risk of developing heart problem
Don’t work out too hard! Risk of fatal heart problem doubles if your exercise regime is too intense, study finds
- British researchers looked at the heart health of more than 70,000 people
- Athletes are 2.5 times more likely to experience irregular heart rhythms
- The threat was even greater among younger athletes, aged 55 and below
Intense exercise can double your risk of developing a potentially fatal heart problem, a study has found.
British researchers looked at the heart health of more than 70,000 people, about one in ten of whom regularly took part in sporting competitions.
They found that athletes are 2.5 times more likely to experience irregular heart rhythms, or atrial fibrillation – a relatively common condition that can lead to strokes and heart failure.
The threat was even greater among younger athletes, aged 55 and below, whose risk of atrial fibrillation was 3.6 times greater than that of non-athletes.
Intense exercise can double your risk of developing a potentially fatal heart problem, a study has found
Those who played mixed team sports – such as football, rugby or netball – had a higher risk than endurance athletes, such as rowers, runners or cyclists.
The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, supports previous studies suggesting that exercise is good for your heart only up to a certain threshold.
Experts have said that once people’s exercise levels start to exceed national physical activity guidelines, the prevalence of heart problems begins to rise again.
Lead author Dr Jamie O’Driscoll, from Canterbury Christ Church University, said: ‘The relative risk of atrial fibrillation is higher in athletes than in those not exercising or performing regular, non-competitive physical activity.’
However, he stressed that, overall, physical activity improves cardiovascular health – reducing the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol – and slashes the risk of death.
Rates of heart disease were lower in the athlete group due to this.
The study comes following several high-profile cases of athletes who have suffered sudden heart failure.
These include Danish footballer Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest during his team’s opening Euros game last month.
The former Tottenham player was discharged from hospital a week later after being fitted with a heart-starting device.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting around 1.4million people in the UK. It can affect adults of any age but is more common in older people.
The condition causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate, raising the risk of strokes five-fold.
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