By Fitness Editor
As we step into the new year, one of the most common resolutions is that of losing weight, or kickstarting a healthier and more active lifestyle. However, amidst the excitement of new beginnings and the motivation to exercise more, there lies a common misconception that physical fitness equates to heart health. The adrenaline-fueled pursuits of athletes often inspire many of us to push our limits. However, behind the façade of peak physical performance lies a hidden risk - the potential for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) or sudden cardiac death (SCD) to happen.
In the wake of the recent shocking cardiac arrest experienced by the 29-year-old Premier League player, Tom Lockyer, perplexity surrounds the notion of professional athletes, whose lives are intricately entwined with exercise, succumbing to heart failure. These instances challenge the traditional belief that athletic excellence inherently ensures heart health, prompting a deeper exploration of the intricate dynamics between intense training regimes and cardiovascular well-being.
Understanding Arrhythmias and Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)
Arrhythmias, characterised by abnormal heart rhythms, can present as the heart beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Dr Tee Chee Hian, Sunway Medical Centre Velocity’s (SMCV) Consultant Cardiologist and Internal Medicine Physician, explains, "Arrhythmias can disrupt the heart's coordinated contraction and relaxation, potentially leading to serious complications, including sudden cardiac death (SCD)."
Arrhythmias can trigger SCD by compromising the heart's pumping function, leading to a rapid decline in blood flow, causing hemodynamic instability, reducing oxygen supply to organs, and, in severe cases, inducing ventricular fibrillation, which can result in unconsciousness and, if untreated, sudden cardiac death.
Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Age Groups Prone to Arrhythmias
Recognising the risk factors associated with arrhythmias is paramount, encompassing an understanding of their symptoms and awareness of age groups more susceptible to these conditions.
A common yet distinctive sensation often reported is the feeling of the heart "skipping a beat." Dr Tee further elaborates, stating, "Arrhythmias can manifest through palpitations, dizziness, fainting, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and fatigue." While arrhythmias can impact individuals of any age, the risk factors vary across different age groups, influenced by factors such as aging, heart disease, genetic predisposition, and lifestyle choices.
Key contributors to the risk of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death include heart disease, a history of heart attacks, specific medications, genetic factors, and lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Therefore, Dr Tee underscores the significance of regular check-ups and the prompt treatment of underlying heart conditions to mitigate potential complications. Most notably, arrhythmias can have an inherited component, and in some cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) have been linked to excessive exercise, particularly in athletes.