Myocardial Infarction in Athletes

ExitCare ImageMyocardial infarction is the medical term for a heart attack. It involves cell death of part of the heart, because of reduced blood flow through the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. Most people who experience a heart attack also have coronary artery disease, for which exercise can be both a treatment and a risk.

SYMPTOMS

  • Cold sweat.

  • Chest pain that may extend into the shoulder, back of the arm, or jaw.

  • Sense of doom.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Fainting.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Family history of heart disease.

  • Tobacco abuse.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Diabetes.

  • High cholesterol.

  • Inactive lifestyle.

  • Pain in the chest, that gets worse or is brought on by exertion.

  • Shortness of breath, that gets worse or is brought on by exertion.

  • Pain radiating to the left shoulder or jaw.

RISKS OF EXERCISE

Exercise can be dangerous for people with coronary artery disease, because exercise increases the demands on the heart. These demands include the need for a greater blood supply, which coronary artery disease diminishes. A decreased blood supply will cause the heart muscle cells to receive less oxygen, and eventually they will die (infarct). For this reason, people with coronary artery disease or a history of heart attack must have their exercise programs monitored.

PREVENTIVE EFFECTS OF EXERCISE

Exercise can also help to prevent coronary artery disease from becoming worse. Regular exercise has many benefits, including increasing oxygen supply to the heart, increasing the levels of good cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and weight loss. All of these help minimize the risks of coronary artery disease. Since exercise is both a risk factor and a preventative measure for people with heart conditions, you should discuss any exercise program with your caregiver before beginning.