The Exercise-Heart Attack Connection: Fact or Fiction?

Cardiac issues don’t discriminate based on fitness levels. Even the fittest among us can be at risk.

When we think of a heart attack or cardiac arrest victim, the common image that comes to mind is that of a paunchy middle-aged person, looking rather unfit. However, recent incidents are challenging this perception and highlighting the rising number of people suffering heart attacks and cardiac arrests while working out in the gym.

One such incident involved comedian Raju Srivastava, who tragically died last year after experiencing a mild heart attack while running on the treadmill. Another case is that of 46-year-old actor Siddhaanth Surryavanshi, who passed away in November last year after collapsing in the gym.

These instances are forcing us to reconsider the link between heart attacks and exercising, especially since we’ve been taught that exercise is good for health and can prevent heart illnesses.

According to a report by The Indian Express, heart attacks occur when there is a sudden blockage of blood supply in one of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. This blockage can be caused by a chronic obstruction of 70 percent or more in a coronary artery, resulting in angina or chest pain during exertion. In these cases, the available blood supply does not meet the increased oxygen demand of the exercising body and straining heart.

However, heart attacks can also occur when soft plaques that form in the coronary arteries rupture and cause a large clot to form. These ruptures can happen without any prior warning symptoms. Even plaques of 30 percent can rupture and lead to the formation of a large obstructive clot.

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Plaques can form in the coronary arteries due to injuries to the blood vessel lining, caused by factors such as inflammation. High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, unhealthy diets, stress, inadequate sleep, or recent infections can contribute to the development of these plaques. Interestingly, some of these events have been recorded in the early morning when there is a surge of blood pressure and a higher tendency for blood clotting.

Dr. K Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist, epidemiologist, and president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), explains that the combination of underlying coronary risk factors, lack of sleep, dehydration, and vigorous exercise can lead to plaque instability, rupture, and the formation of a large clot.

So, is exercise bad for the heart? The answer is no. Exercising is not inherently bad for the heart. However, it is crucial to detect and control the risk factors that can contribute to the formation and rupture of plaques.

Experts advise taking certain precautions when engaging in physical activities. Firstly, if you are unaccustomed to heavy exercising, don’t jump into a strenuous exercise regimen right away. It’s recommended to start with brisk walking for 3-5 kilometers a day and gradually build up your stamina. Secondly, regular health check-ups should not be neglected. Lastly, any chest pain symptoms should not be ignored. It is essential to get an electrocardiogram (ECG) and seek cardiology consultation at the nearest hospital. Early treatment can save lives.

When it comes to the amount of exercise, experts suggest going easy on the body and avoiding excessive exertion. Dr. Ashish Agarwal, HOD of cardiology at Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, with adequate breaks in between. It’s important to do proper warm-up exercises before gym sessions and not push your body too hard too soon.

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Unfortunately, heart attacks during exercise have claimed the lives of several individuals in recent years. Kannada star Puneeth Rajkumar passed away in the gym after a massive cardiac arrest. Actor Sidharth Shukla, known for his dedication to fitness, tragically died after experiencing severe chest pain. Renowned singer-composer KK died of a suspected cardiac arrest after complaining of uneasiness during a concert.

These incidents serve as reminders that cardiac issues can affect anyone, regardless of their fitness level. It’s crucial to prioritize our cardiovascular health and take the necessary steps to prevent heart attacks and cardiac arrests. Regular exercise is still beneficial, but it’s equally important to address and manage risk factors and listen to our bodies.

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