what it is, symptoms and risks for sportsmen and women alike

Athlete’s heart is one of the possible cardiac effects of physical exercise. It may or may not be a good sign. Let’s try to understand why with Dr. Flavio Doni, cardiologist and marathon runner

Maria Elena Perrero

Have the athlete’s heart: it is not a way of saying, but the term that indicates the set of structural and functional changes found in the the heart of some sportsmen, not only professionals but also amateurs, who train regularly and with a certain intensity. However, if it is true that the athlete’s heart it is not one illness it is equally true that, continued to the extreme, it can become. “The athlete’s heart it is a heart that undergoes alterations which, if found in a person who does not do sports, are an indication of pathology “, he underlines to Official Active Dr. Flavio Doni, cardiologist and marathon runner, in charge of the Marathon Center at Palazzo della Salute-Wellness Clinic in Milan.

Athlete’s heart between sports and non-sportsmen

Among the same sportsmen there are differences that should not be underestimated as regards the athlete’s heart: “If the subject plays sports, the athlete’s heart indicates an adaptation of the heart muscle to the needs of cardiac activity. But these needs, these demands, must have a limit, otherwise the adaptation of the heart becomes pathological. I can ask my heart to support me, therefore to become an athlete’s heart, but I always have to do it with great prudence, with adequate workloads that take into account the fact that even the heart has a limit of tolerance “, underlines Doni. .

Athlete’s heart: what it is

The heart of one sporty must respond to the need to send more blood possible, and therefore oxygento the muscles. “To achieve this goal – explains Doni -, in sports that involve important isometric activities (such as weightlifting, rowing, throwing, training in the gym), the heart must overcome a high peripheral resistance. It will therefore tend to become above all hypertrophic. In endurance sports (such as running and cycling) the heart, in order to send as much blood as possible, will tend above all to dilate “.

Athlete’s heart: symptoms

As long as the training remains sustainable, commensurate with our physical abilities, the athlete’s heart it is therefore only something positive. The problem is when you overdo the workload. “At that point you can have them symptoms such as sudden shortness of breath, palpitations, heart rate at rest much higher than usual, as well as altered values ​​in blood tests – explains the cardiologist -. This is why it is good to stop first, without exceeding “.

When the athlete’s heart becomes disease

Even in the sporty, therefore, the athlete’s heart can become a disease: “This happens when I ask the heart to develop a ‘hypertrophy abnormal to produce which also causes damage to the tissue, or formation of scars with the risk of dangerous arrhythmias. The heart is a muscle, and if it is pushed too hard it is injured. Scars are terrible for the heart because they alter the passage of electrical current within the heart itself. In a muscle like the heart one scar can determine arrhythmias even mortal – underlines Doni -. Lcardiac hypertrophy of an athlete’s heart, after one or two months of training reduction it regresses. The hypertrophy of an exasperated athlete’s heart no longer regresses “. For this reason a cardiological evaluation is good: “An electrocardiogram or echocardiogram are fundamental in the sports visit precisely to see, among other things, any thickening of the heart walls”, underlines the cardiologist and marathon runner.

Athlete’s heart without playing sports

But the athlete’s heartor at least thecardiac hypertrophy which one has in the case of the athlete’s heart, it can also be had in whom it is not sporty. Only at this point it is a real pathology. “Cardiac hypertrophy of the athlete’s heart, therefore in athletes, is closely linked to the workload – clarifies Doni -. If training is reduced, hypertrophy is immediately reduced. In the case of cardiac hypertrophy in non-sportsmen, then, the thickening of the walls of the heart is accompanied by greater rigidity of the walls. Consequently, the heart works badly, it has more difficulty in pumping blood ”. In the case of non-athletes, the causes can be different: “Hypertrophy can indicate hypertension or it can be congenital. In any case it is a sign of illness “.

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