Major cardiac events are often brought to our attention via media in relation to sports and physical activity, such as that of Jay Bouwmeester – the NHL Player who collapsed from a cardiac episode earlier this year. Though sudden death in people younger than 35 and those who are seemingly healthy is rare, participating in sports and/or physical activity can sometimes lead to sudden cardiac arrest. This can be due to an undetected heart condition and/or underlying health issues, which can lead to heart failure. These pre-existing conditions may include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, coronary artery abnormalities and long QT syndrome, which is an inherited heart rhythm disorder.
Because of this, it is important for those with underlying health conditions to see their doctor on a regular basis, to ensure there are no issues or concerns. For those who appear to be healthy, it’s important not to ignore any signs/symptoms that can lead to heart issues. These include shortness of breath, unexplained fainting or family history of sudden cardiac arrest.
For the majority of people without underlying heart conditions, physical activity and sports have a positive impact on heart health. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, being active plays a significant role in one’s heart health. In fact, those who have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but lead active lives, have a lower death rate than those who have no health risk factors but do not engage in sports or physical activity. Heart patients who commit to eating healthier and living an active lifestyle tend to increase their life span compared to heart patients who have an unhealthy diet and are sedentary most of the time.
How Are Physical Activity and Sports Connected to Heart Health?
The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that people who exercise regularly can lower their risk of dying from heart disease by nearly 50 per cent. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, sports and exercise, one can:
- Lower blood pressure;
- Lower cholesterol;
- Decrease risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes;
- Lose weight (excess visceral fat can affect heart health);
- Lower risk of heart arrythmia; and
- Lower stress, which can also affect heart health.
What Activities or Sports are Beneficial to Heart Health?
The word exercise can be a scary thing. For many, it means hitting the gym and engaging in hard core cardio exercises. But this is not the only type of exercise available. There are so many kinds of sports and activities for all ages and abilities that can help your heart. These include:
- Climbing stairs;
- Swimming or aquasize;
- Chair exercises;
- Yoga; and
- Running/speed walking
Note: always make sure to consult with a doctor before starting any exercise program.
How Do I Start?
People who want to change their lifestyles but don’t know how or where to begin can contact a dietitian and/or personal trainer who can help set up a program. Many people are more successful when they are accountable to someone else. As always, make sure to consult with a doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.
The Cleveland Clinic gives some ideas through its 3-Day Heart-Healthy Meal Plan: 1,200 Calories.
Exercise Can Lower Stress Levels
Exercise results in a so-called natural high – this is because exercise releases endorphins, which naturally sends “feel-good” transmitters to the brain. Stress can affect overall health and if not treated, can lead to much larger issues including heart attack and high blood pressure.
Read our blog: Stress and Heart Health – Are They Connected
It’s important for children to learn the importance of physical activity and sports from a young age. By introducing a healthy lifestyle early, it’s much easier for a person to adopt healthy habits.
On the contrary, if a child is surrounded by inactive parents who do not eat or live a healthy lifestyle, they will likely be impacted and have health issues down the road.
Everyone can lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Any kind of movement is better than nothing at all. Start slow – go outside for 10 – 15-minute walk. The following day build it up by adding another five minutes and so on. Remember, eating a balance diet helps fuel the body and get it ready for exercise and physical activity.
Check out our heart health recipes: https://firsteditionfirstaid.ca/?s=recipe