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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS

Heart condition best tested during exercise

Wednesday June 3rd, 2015

Heart tests for athletes are most useful when undertaken during exercise, researchers say today.

Experts from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia, explain that marathon runners, endurance triathletes and alpine cyclists can develop irregular heartbeats that bring a potential risk of sudden death.

They previously demonstrated that the right ventricle of the heart is subjected to much greater stresses during exertion than the left ventricle - and it can suffer temporary damage during prolonged exercise.

Now Professor Andre La Gerche and colleagues have carried out a study of 17 athletes with right ventricular heartbeat irregularities (arrhythmias), of whom eight had a defibrillator to control their heart. Also taking part were ten healthy endurance athletes and seven non-athletes.

A range of imaging techniques were used to view the heart at rest and during exercise. These included cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and echocardiography. This showed that arrhythmias are best detected by measuring the right ventricle during exercise.

Details appear today (3 June) in the European Heart Journal. They say these findings have "important clinical implications". Currently, routine assessment of suspected arrhythmias among athletes often involve resting heart measurements, and what's more, tend to focus on the left ventricle.

"You do not test a racing car while it is sitting in the garage," said Professor La Gerche. "Similarly, you can't assess an athlete's heart until you assess it under the stress of exercise.

"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."

La Gerche, A. et al. Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction is associated with ventricular arrhythmias in endurance athletes. European Heart Journal 3 June 2015 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv202

Tags: Australia | Fitness | Heart Health

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