Physically active middle-aged men and women have little chance of suffering cardiac arrest while playing sports, a new study suggests.
Researchers reviewed more than 1,200 cases of sudden cardiac arrest among adults aged 35 to 65. They found only 5% of attacks occurred during sports activity such as jogging or bicycling.
And the outcome for those patients was positive, the researchers said.
“When you take a closer look at those who have a sports-related cardiac arrest, they were more likely to survive than those whose cardiac arrest was not sports-related,” said lead researchers Dr. Sumeet Chugh, associate director of genomic cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
“Overall, the news is good. The risk of dying suddenly if you participate in sports is quite low,” Chugh said.
However, if you have a known heart problem, any heart symptoms or are a “total couch potato”, you might want to see your doctor before starting any significant sports activity, he added.
For the report, published April 6 in the journal Circulation, Chugh’s team reviewed almost 1,250 cases of sudden cardiac arrest among middle-aged adults from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study. Patient’s average age was 51.
Of the 5% of cases suffered during exercise, more than one-quarter took place while jogging. Basketball and cycling accounted for fewer than one in five sports-related cardiac arrests, the study found.
The attacks didn’t occur entirely out of the blue. More than one-third had symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain or breathlessness, in the week before their heart stopped, and more than half had risk factors for heart disease, the study found.
Sports participation made it more likely the person would be seen and treated, the researchers found. Close to 90% of sports-associated cardiac arrests were witnessed versus roughly half of those that occurred at other times. Those people were also more likely to receive CPR – 44% versus 25%, increasing the odds of survival.
Moreover, fit men and women were more likely to survive than unfit folks (23% versus 14%)
My older brother suffered cardiac arrest while swimming laps at a public pool in 2013. He was clinically dead for 45 minutes, but was fortunate to have an ER physician swimming in the next lane. She and the life guard pulled him from the pool and administered CPR until the paramedics arrived. He not only survived, but recovered completely with no heart tissue damage. Although he has a long history of cardiac issues, he has also been actively exercising his entire life.
The Bottom Line:
Keep up the exercise. It will improve your health, longevity, reduce your risk of a cardiovascular incident and even improve your chances of survival if you have a CVA.
Source: April 6, 2015 National Institutes of Health
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