The need to be both Fit & healthy!
Over the past few years, there has been an unfortunate trend of young people dying due to cardiac issues. Just like majority of young people especially those under the age of 40 years; all of us athletes whether amateur or professional take our health for granted as well. I consider myself to be an extremely fit person, and majority people will agree to this. However, I also have understood that there are internal changes we all go through, and not keeping an eye on those can have detrimental impact on life. I am writing this blog, where I will share some of my views having had a long discussion with couple cardiologists based in Pune, Nagar, Baltimore & Boston.
Please note this is a general statement, this IS NOT medical advice, nor does this blog cover everything in the scope, science also changes overtime, and in a few years perhaps there will be new observations.
I will keep this simple and have divided it in 7 categories:
We all have certain parameters we need to keep a close eye on: Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cholesterol are three main contributors to heart disease. These three are changeable, as in we can have control on them either through diet-exercise and or medications. Smoking as we know is a huge risk factor as well, so the goal should be smoking cessation. Make note that passive smoking also has detrimental impact on one’s life. Obesity is another major one that has a great impact on cardiac health.
Genetics is often times the unknown x factor, so I would urge to check both maternal as well as paternal history to see if anyone (woman/man) has had a cardiac event especially under the age of 60 years. In a lot of cases often this factor is a key contributor and is missed.
For anyone getting into moderate physical activity, we at RadStrong recommend preliminary screening tests, and then once a year follow up on same. Blood Labs: Basic Hemogram HbA1C Total Lipid Panel Vitamin B12-D3 Liver Function Test Creatine ERP Calcium (for women)
ECG: 12 lead ECG done to check the electrical functioning of our heart.
2D Echo: Very important test to check the mechanical working of the heart. Please do not ignore this test.
Stress Test: For anyone above age 40 a routine Treadmill Stress Testis a must, based on results further testing maybe indicated. For a lot of athletes, we recommend a stress test every year.
Exercise habits: I wanted to STRESS on the word habits, because a lot of exercise is about consistency. ACSM/AHA recommend moderate physical activity 60 mins a day, for 5-6 times a week. The point I want to stress is, that you must strive to get it in a prescribed manner and cannot just do 2 bouts of 150 mins to get your weekly 300 mins. Similar one must understand that exercise does add demands on the heart, it is advised there be a gradual build up regardless you plan to run a 5 k or train for a Full Ironman. Often times we encounter people, athletes (in my case) people who are on the stop-gap program, they wake up get excited join, within a week let go, then a few weeks or months later same cycle happens. Consistency is especially important in exercise as well, and even more so if you’re goal is to be just fit!
Diet: A lot of athletes want a quicker weight loss; they feel that a lower weight will result in a better athletic performance. A lot of general population like athletes follow a diet plan for a few months in certain cases a year or so, because it involves you cutting out some food part. The most common dieters also find that they gain the weight right back. It’s important I feel to find the right caloric balance based on your activity, then work with a certified nutritionist who will give you a food plan that you can follow in ANY part of the world without burning a major hole in your pockets. The diet of moderation works the best in my views, keep an eye on oily, spicy, salty food and avoided saturated fats as much as possible.
Stress Management: This a very crucial point I want to make, stress is one aspect we ALL don’t necessarily accept are stressed. In todays busy worlds, we all have certain amount of stress, whether its personal, professional, financial stress will always be there. What we have to do is better manage it, especially majority of us near the age of 40, who I always say get stress with our parents aging, add to it their health issues etx, plus raising young children, the stress of their future. We also have I have termed with a couple friends “Aspirational Stress,” we all have certain aspirations for us that can cause huge amounts of stress internally.
We all must accept & identify such stressors, and then either find outlet through family, friends etx for routine issues. For certain issues we must consult with a counsellor or stress management professional, again as much as there is stigma on this IT IS A must.
Understand that exercise can be a good stressor, but if you continuously use exercise as means to “take it out, punish your body, beat the outside stress,” you will do more harm. At the end of the day, our heart can only take so much, just like major muscles & joints.
Hydration: A few cardiologists I spoke to, strongly believe that dehydration is a major contributor to young people as well as athletes having heart issues. The normal rule is 4-5 liters of water is daily. Based on weather conditions + athletic needs you may need more. For athletes keep in mind any exercise lasting beyond 50-60 minutes you will need to add electrolytes + salt. One way to keep an eye on hydration is to see urine colour, if its dark yellow in colour usually means you are dehydrated.
Keeping an eye on symptoms: Last point I want to make is that our body also gives us signals that we must keep an eye on and react to them in a positive manner. Extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, jaw pain, chest pain, in some cases back-shoulder pain, feeling acidity, nausea/ and or vomiting are classic symptoms of cardiac issues. We must keep an eye and SEEK medical help if we experience any of the above. Hopefully, it will be nothing, and we are allowed to move on; however, this NOT something we can work around, please don’t discount these.
A lot of athlete’s exercise when they have fever, or other infections that need antibiotics. Myocarditis is also a major contributor to young athletes having heart issues. We MUST make sure we do not do any moderate -intense activity till fever dissipates and the medications course is done. Please check with a medical professional before doing any moderate to intense exercise.
I have personally done my blood tests, as well as the cardiac tests mentioned above on 27th and 28th October 2020, I hope after reading this article you all will also do the same.