Symmetry Blog

Heart Health

Symmetry Physio - Monday, May 07, 2018

Dylan Roberton may not return this AFL season after he collapsed mid-game in round four.

Heart Health 

St Kilda's defender, Dylan Roberton may not return this AFL season after he collapsed mid-game in round four, our Exercise Physiologist Emily Cousins sheds light on heart health.

When talking about heart health, many people just think of high blood pressure or heart attacks. However, even young people and fit athletes are not immune to some heart conditions. An AFL player especially may be the last person you expect to suffer from heart troubles.

Often young people or very fit people may display very few symptoms of heart irregularities, or they may associate the symptoms with something else such as asthma, muscles spasm or dehydration. However, when your heart under extreme pressure - such as during a professional AFL match or a marathon, small irregularities in the hearts muscle, valves, rhythms or pressure become apparent and can present as chest pain, breathing difficulties or in Dylan's case, cause you to collapse.

So whilst exercise is vital in promoting heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease, it is also important to not just assume if you are younger in age or very physically fit that you are completely immune to heart issues. This does not mean you need to suddenly drop your training load or intensity, merely listen to your body. Listed below are a few of my healthy heart tips:

  1. Don't skip your annual checkup. Even if you never get sick, it is always worth checking in with your GP on an annual basis for a once over (or more frequently depending on other medical conditions you may have). This also allows your GP to track any changes over time that may indicate a change in heart health.
  2. Be aware of a significant change in fitness. Did you use to punch out 5min km on your weekly runs with ease, but now over the last 6 months you are struggling to keep your pace under 6.30min? Or could you breeze through 1km but are now can't push past 7km? Providing there are no other variables such as a break from training, recent illness or injury, changes that quickly in fitness level are worth following up with your GP.
  3. Check your fitness tracker. There have been numerous cases where people have managed to prevent further health complications because they noticed a change in their fitness tracker. If you wear one regularly or even just when exercising, go over your results every few months and if you notice any unusual trends, follow up with your GP.
  4. Know your family history. Many heart conditions have a genetic component, meaning if a family member suffers from a particular heart condition you may be at increased risk. Find out if mum, dad, aunts, aunties or grandparents suffered from any heart conditions and make sure your GP is aware too. If you have a family history of heart disease, your GP may recommend lifestyle changes and regular heart check-ups.

Early and thorough investigations are important, which is why Dylan's collapse last weekend due to an irregular heart rhythm is still being looked into by doctors before he is cleared to return to play. Following a healthy diet, low in salt, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and avoiding heavy drinking all help keep your heart working at its best. However, if you notice changes listed above, or something just doesn't feel right speak to your GP.

Need some guidance regarding a heart-healthy diet or exercise program? Why not make an appointment with our Dietitians or Exercise Physiologist.

Emily Cousins

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