Should you get your heart tested before you run a marathon?

Should you get your heart tested before you run a marathon?

Are you thinking about running a marathon or doing a mammoth bike ride in the coming months?

If so, preparation is crucial to get you in the best shape possible for the event. But while most amateurs know they need to swat up on training regimes, embrace stretching programmes and find the right equipment, many overlook one vital part of the preparation: their heart.

While endurance sports are considered to be safe forms of exercise, intense cardiovascular activity can result in sudden death for those who have a congenital heart defect or artery blockage. It is estimated the the rate of incidence for heart attacks among marathon runners is one in every 150,000. According to a new study, as part of your preparation you should get your heart tested to ensure that it ticks over smoothly. Importantly, the test should be done while you exercise.

In the research, published in the European Heart Journal, Professor André La Gerche from the University of Melbourne found that doctors who try to detect heartbeat irregularities by focusing on the heart while it rests could miss important signs of dysfunction.

Alongside colleagues in Australia and Belgium, Prof La Gerche tested the hearts of 34 people - 17 athletes who had known right ventricular arrhythmias, ten healthy athletes, and seven non-athletes. The scientists used different imaging techniques to analyse the heart while it rested and during exercise.

They found that the resting hearts of the 34 subjects produced similar results. However, once the three groups began exercising, their hearts showed markedly different measurements, with the people who were known to have arrhythmias displaying clear signs of underlying issues.

Prof La Gerche, associate professor and head of sports cardiology at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia, explained that the right side of the heart is a potential "weak link" in athletes.

“By measuring the blood pressure in the lungs and the body during exercise we have shown that the right side of the heart has to increase its work more than the left side of the heart," he said.

"In the normal healthy athletes, the right side of the heart was able to manage the increased work requirements. In the athletes with arrhythmias, the right side of the heart was weak during exercise. It could not handle the increase in work and we could detect problems accurately that were not apparent at rest.

“The dysfunction of the right ventricle during exercise suggests that there is damage to the heart muscle. This damage is causing both weakness and heart rhythm problems. Whilst the weakness is mild, the heart rhythm problems are potentially life threatening.

By The Telegraph,

The Telegraph Wednesday 03 June 2015

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