Masters athletes: don’t ignore your heart health!

Regular endurance exercise is known to be a major factor for helping to reeuce the risk of cardiovascular disease in older athlete. However, a new study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that older athletes are by no means immune from heart disease, and should still have regular health check ups.

In the study, researchers followed 798 masters athletes (adults aged 35 and older who engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity at least three days a week) including from runners, cyclists, triathletes and rowers. All participants were asked a range of questions about their health, family history and physical activity levels. They also had their blood pressure checked and waist circumference measured. Some participants also took part in an exercise stress test – those with abnormal results underwent further testing to determine if they had cardiovascular disease.

The findings and recommendations

Of the 798 athletes, 94 (11 per cent) were found to have significant cardiovascular disease. More worringly, ten participants were found to have severe coronary artery disease (a blockage in their artery of 70 per cent or greater) despite not having any symptoms.

The researchers went on to make three key recommendations:
*Masters athletes are NOT immune to elevated cardiac risk and should be evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors (including lipid profile), family history of CORONARY ARTERIAL DISEASE (CAD) and concerning symptoms, and undergo a resting ECG.

*Masters athletes, regardless of fitness level, with a family history of premature CAD, abnormal ECG and cardiovascular risk factors may benefit from undergoing a maximal exercise stress test (EST).

*Masters athletes with a high FRS, and abnormal EST, ECG or physical exam (ie, diastolic murmur or systolic click), should undergo clinically indicated examinations to confirm or exclude CVD, as recommended by a sports cardiologist.

You can read the full study here: https://bmjopensem.bmj.com/content/4/1/e000370.

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