World Heart Day: Can you exercise yourself to a cardiac arrest?

What comes to mind when you think of a heart attack or cardiac arrest victim?

The common image people have in mind is that of a paunchy middle-aged person, looking rather unfit. However, the rising number of people suffering heart attacks and cardiac arrests while working out in the gym is making us change our perception.

Rewind to comedian Raju Srivastava, who died last year after suffering a mild heart attack while running on the treadmill. There’s also the incident of 46-year-old actor Siddhaanth Surryavanshi, who passed away in November last year after collapsing in the gym.

On World Heart Day (29 September), we take a closer look at the link between heart attacks with exercising. After all, we all were taught that exercising is good for health and can prevent heart illnesses.

What causes heart attacks?

According to a report by The Indian Express, which cites Prof K Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist, epidemiologist and president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), heart attacks are caused when there is a sudden blockage of blood supply in one of the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle.

Also read: World Heart Day: Watch out for early signs of heart failure 

“Chronic obstruction of 70 per cent or more in a coronary artery produces angina or chest pain on exertion, since available blood supply does not meet the increased oxygen demand of the exercising body and straining heart. However, a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) can occur when soft plaques that form in the coronary arteries rupture and cause a large clot to form. This may come without any prior warning symptoms. Even plaques of 30 per cent can rupture and set up the formation of a large obstructive clot,” he explains.

Plaques can form in the coronary arteries due to injuries to the blood vessel lining, by factors causing inflammation. High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, unhealthy diets, stress, inadequate sleep or recent infection can do that.

Some of these events have been recorded in the early morning as there is a surge of blood pressure and blood clotting tendency is also higher in the morning.

“If a person who has some underlying coronary risk factors, has not slept well, is dehydrated and steps up to do vigorous exercise, plaque instability can lead to rupture and trigger large clot formation,” explains Dr Reddy, as reported by The Indian Express.

Is exercise bad for the heart?

Exercising is not bad for the heart, but it is essential to detect and control the risk factors that can build and rupture plaques.

Experts advise to not neglect health check-ups as well as building up stamina before going for a strenuous exercise regime.

“Firstly, if you are unaccustomed to heavy exercising, don’t start with a strenuous exercise regimen. Go slow: Start with walking briskly for 3-5 km/day in the beginning. Gradually build up your stamina. Secondly, don’t neglect your health check-ups.Lastly, do not neglect any chest pain symptoms. Get an ECG and go to the nearest tertiary care hospital to get an ECG and cardiology consultation. Early treatment saves lives,” Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, Interventional Cardiologist at Wockhardt Hospital said, as reported by Times Now.

How much exercise is good exercise?

Experts suggest going easy on the body while exercising and not go overboard under any condition.

Dr Ashish Agarwal, HOD, cardiology Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital said as reported by The Indian Express, “Strenuous exercise raises the short-term risk of heart attack and cardiac arrest. Thirty minutes of exercise, with adequate breaks in between, five days a week, is enough to remain healthy and hearty. Always remember to do proper warmup exercises before gym sessions and don’t try to do too much too soon.”

Who has suffered heart attacks in the past?

In a case quite similar to Raju Srivastava’s, Kannada star Puneeth Rajkumar passed away on 29 October 2021 after he suffered a massive cardiac arrest while he was exercising in the gym. According to several media reports, the actor had complained of chest pain earlier.

Also read: World Heart Day 2022: How health technology tools help control cardio-metabolic diseases

Actor Sidharth Shukla died on 2 September of the same year after he started feeling uneasy and experienced severe chest pain. Known to be a fitness freak, Shukla was advised to go easy on his workout. According to a report by India Today, before waking up in the middle of the night due to chest pain, the actor went jogging after which he had his dinner and slept.

Singer-composer KK died on 31 May 2022 in Kolkata at the age of 53. He was in the city for a two-day concert. The singer complained of uneasiness during an event at Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha but performed till the end of the concert. Following this, he was taken to a hotel in Esplanade where his health further deteriorated and he died before he could reach the hospital. He died of a suspected cardiac arrest.

Footballer Christian Eriksen was taken to the hospital after he collapsed after a cardiac arrest on the field during a match at the European Championship in 2021. However, after his treatment, his condition remained stable, according to ESPN.

With inputs from agencies

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