Don’t train too hard! The risk of a fatal heart problem doubles if your exercise program is too intense, the study found
- British researchers examined the heart health of more than 70,000 people
- Athletes are 2.5 times more likely to have arrhythmias
- The threat was even greater among younger athletes aged 55 and under
One study found that vigorous exercise can double the risk of developing a potentially fatal heart problem.
British researchers studied the heart health of more than 70,000 people, around one in ten of whom competed regularly.
They found that athletes are 2.5 times more likely to have arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation – a relatively common condition that can lead to strokes and heart failure.
The threat was even greater in younger athletes aged 55 and under, whose risk of atrial fibrillation was 3.6 times higher than that of non-athletes.
One study found that vigorous exercise can double the risk of developing a potentially fatal heart problem
Those who played mixed team sports such as soccer, rugby or netball were at a higher risk than endurance athletes such as rowers, runners or cyclists.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, supports previous studies that suggest that exercise is only good for your heart up to a certain threshold.
Experts have said that once people’s physical activity level exceeds national physical activity guidelines, the prevalence of heart problems rises again.
The lead author Dr. Jamie O’Driscoll of Canterbury Christ Church University said, “Athletes have a higher relative risk of atrial fibrillation than those who do not engage in regular, non-competitive physical activity.”
However, he stressed that overall physical activity improves cardiovascular health – reduces the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol – and lowers the risk of death.
Because of this, the rates of heart disease were lower in the athlete group.
The study follows several high profile cases of athletes who have suffered sudden heart failure.
Among them the Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest last month during the opening game of his team at the European Championship.
The former Tottenham player was discharged from the hospital a week later after being fitted with a heart starter.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting around 1.4 million people in the UK. It can affect adults of all ages, but is more common in the elderly.
The condition causes an irregular and often unusually fast heart rate, which increases the risk of stroke fivefold.