Here is a point requiring your attention, as it might cause confusion for obvious reasons. Referring to an “athlete’s heart”, we do not mean a heart that favors athletic activities, or sports in general, but a special condition, known since the 19thcentury, rather a disease, characterizing athletes.
A number of studies have been conducted on the matter and we are about to discuss everything in today’s article, so next time you’ll hear this specific expression you are well prepared to understand its meaning.
Training and athletic activity in general have a good name for maintaining good health and good functioning of the person’s heart.
It might be a little strange but what happens if we ask, “Would there be any possibility to have problems in case of an intense and painful physical activity?”
In case of any incident occurring when training becomes hard, it is important to know everything about this important part of our body and how can we protect it.
To understand the problem and clear the picture of this pathological condition, we analyze what the term “athlete’s heart” means and what we can do to protect it.
The basic prerequisite for maintaining the good health of our heart is to be well informed about this extremely complex organ giving us life.
The heart is a muscle pumping blood throughout the body, then supplied with oxygen and valuable nutrients to keep it healthy and functioning properly.
Undoubtedly, the heart is the centre of organism’s entire circulatory system. When this muscle, the heart, performs contractions, blood is pumped successfully. This heart contraction is due to its automatic electrical stimulation, returning to its original state at all times, with this process repeated continuously.
In addition to left ventricle – as mentioned – the heart still has three cavities. These heart cavities (right & left ventricle and right & left atrium), when functioning properly, ensure a smooth circulation of blood throughout the body and every vital organ.
An important heart’s “tool” is the aortic valve. It is located between the left atrium and left ventricle and is like a “tap” “closing” when heart is contracted. This prevents blood flow to the left atrium, promoting the flow to the aorta to distribute it throughout the body.
Another important “tool” of heart (extremely important for its functioning) is the aortic valve.
The tricuspid valve is respectively a “tap” on heart’s right side, located between the right atrium and the right ventricle, being closed when the heart contracts so blood does not return to heart but is pumped to lungs, so the breathing process is successfully performed.
Finally, the pulmonary valve on heart’s right side remaining open during the blood supply process from right atrium to lungs and closing again shortly later, allowing right ventricle to collect blood again with the help of right atrium.
As already understood, the heart has two sides, surrounded by a muscle wall. Electrical signals control the heart’s left and right sides, causing their contraction to pump blood to whole body.
Therefore, while the heart’s right side is responsible for pumping blood to lungs, the blood entering the heart’s left side leaving the lungs and being rich in oxygen as promoted throughout the body, to every cell and every tissue.
In brief, this is how our body is “fed” and functioned.
Any heart disease relates to circulatory disease (cardiovascular disease), being a serious condition for every person (regardless of age).
Cardiovascular diseases – as usually called – constitute a general term and a broader condition of disorders related to either the heart or the circulatory system, usually caused by the development of atherosclerotic plaque on the walls of vessels, so resulting in their narrowing abnormal and insufficient blood flow through them.
Most common cardiovascular diseases are:
In fact, almost 1/3 of these deaths are due to either coronary heart disease or stroke.
The numbers are awesome and somehow worrying. So, is the modern lifestyle of human being leading to this dramatic increase in cardiovascular disease?
Why do experts estimate that in the next 5 years this number may even exceed 25,000,000 people a year?
There are many different causes attributed to the above increase of cardiovascular disorders’ rate in body. A number of these are directly dependent on the persons themselves, requesting a change and improvement of living conditions, while others are unfortunately unchanged.
On the one hand factors such as smoking, sedentary life, poor quality & diet, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, anxiety and stress are factors depending upon us, for ensuring a better quality of life and a lower risk of health problems.
On the other hand, there are factors such as gender, age, heredity, and even race, contributing (in positive or negative way) to how the body operates and – unfortunately – not possible to be changed by any individual.
Certain recommendations may assist on maintaining a good & healthy heart
Finally is exercise helping on good condition of the heart, or is hurting it causing various problems?
Inactivity and sedentary life – as mentioned – are key factors in the development of cardiovascular problems.
Can the physical exercise cause problems in the heart’s proper functioning?
Intense and painful physical activity may cause hemodynamic changes, affecting both the frequency of heartbeats and the volume of blood pumped through each heart’s contraction.
So when a hard exercise program is performed, the left ventricle is forced to follow these vigorous rhythms and adapt to hemodynamic changes occurring, resulting to its wall widening.
A more static sport has a completely different effect than a very active and dynamic one.
Furthermore, an important factor is the timing of each workout, as it takes more than 3 hours of exercise each week at high rates to refer to hemodynamic changes.
The heart of those following a regular training program professionally is different from those of persons doing casual sports, and certainly quite different from those of the individuals with a sedentary lifestyle.
While in people exercising regularly, the heart’s diastolic process is strengthened during exercise and the systolic remains the same in resting state, in those individuals not exercising the process is quite different.
We could clearly say the exercise offers benefits or better contributes to heart’s health.
These benefits are quite significant, being just as important for healthy people as for people with heart problems.
Here is which are considered as key benefits:
The beneficial effect of the sport is evident, but the subject of the “athlete’s heart” presents a problem to many athletes.
The issue of the “athlete’s heart” only applies to people engaged with sports for many years in a regular way and even to a great extent.
The intense nature of workout brings about some profound changes in heart and this is precisely the condition termed as “athlete’s heart”.
This means accumulation of fat on the walls of left ventricle, decrease in heart rate and changes in the way of heart functioning.
So after a long period (many years) of intense workouts, when a person stops exercising, these heart changes normally recede, without this being the rule for all cases.
For a number of athletes, even after a permanent discontinuation and withdrawal from the sport, these changes do not recede and continue to exist.
However, at this point, experts – who have not yet elaborated on the exact causes of this condition, wonder if this is the result of the so-called “athlete’s heart” disease or a hypertrophic heart disease.
In fact, the athlete’s heart is not a special condition but a normal condition, as changes in heart’s function are due to physical activity.
Nevertheless, we refer to the “athlete’s heart” as a condition where after discontinuation of chronic exercise, the heart does not return to its original form, maintaining its changes due to exercise.
This is an alarming case, which may lead the person to develop arrhythmia of heart, heart attack and – as a result – even sudden death.
It is also very important for a person to adopt a healthier lifestyle, sleep and nutrition, with no stress, smoking cigarette and alcohol abuse.
Anyone may avoid cardiovascular disease by choosing a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medical monitoring and support when this becomes necessary.
Regular checkup can save the life of any person.
Do not exceed your limits in training and do not push yourself to extremes.
It might be fatal.
A balanced exercise and nutrition program is the ideal way to achieve a long and healthy life.