Takeaways from the Sports Cardiology: Heart Health & Being Active Live Chat

sports-cardio-emailThanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, January 26, for our live online chat on “Sports Cardiology: Heart Healthy & Being Active” hosted by Emory sports cardiologist, Jonathan H. Kim, MD, and sports medicine physician, Neeru Jayanthi, MD.

We were thrilled with the number of people who registered and were able to participate in the chat. The response was so great that we had a few questions we were not able to answer so we have answered them below for your reference.

Question: How much exercise is safe if I have been diagnosed with a heart condition?

  • Answer from Dr. Kim: Discussing the appropriate “exercise prescription” for patients with heart conditions is one of the key elements of sports cardiology. Each “prescription” is patient specific and accounts for key elements in the patient’s history, cardiac condition, and results of cardiac testing. It is important to emphasize that, one, cardiac testing obtained is unique to each patient and their condition. Most testing will include, however, an EKG, imaging of the heart (echocardiogram), and functional exercise testing. Two, the “prescription” also takes into account the sports cardiologist and patient’s discussion weighing the risks vs. benefits of ongoing exercise and other key personal psychological aspects individual to each athletic patient. Thus, this is a very individualized discussion per athlete and per condition.

Question: Are energy drinks before you workout bad for your heart?

  • Answer from Dr. Kim: In general, high-energy drinks with caffeine carry the potential side effects related to caffeine. Many of these side effects are cardiovascular in nature (blood pressure and heart rhythm effects). In my practice, I generally discourage long-term use/ingestion of these high-energy beverages with caffeine if possible.

One of the questions from the live chat was too good not to share. See below:

Question: My 10 year old son wants to start playing football, but I’m concerned about the stories I see on the news about kids dropping dead on the field. His father’s family has a long history of heart disease. Does he need a heart screening before I let him play? Can his pediatrician screen him or should I bring him to a cardiologist/sports cardiologist?

  • Answer from Dr. Jayanthi: While it is devastating to hear these stories of sudden cardiac death during sports in children, fortunately these are exceedingly rare. It is very important to have an established relationship with your pediatrician or family physician to identify any risk factors prior to sports participation. If there are few risk factors and the appropriate heart screening questions and physical exam are done, there may not be any further need for evaluation.

However, if there are certain conditions in the family history, they may require referral to sports cardiology, such as sudden cardiac death and other conditions. We still do not have universal recommendations about getting EKG or echocardiograms prior to participation.

  • Answer from Dr. Kim: I agree with Dr. Jayanthi’s comments. In addition, it is critical to emphasize that many of the heart conditions that cause sudden cardiac death evolve unpredictably as we age. Therefore screening with heart tests in a 10 year old may not demonstrate evidence of a heart problem; however, that same 10 year old may actually have the genes for one of these heart diseases that cause sudden cardiac death. Therefore, as mentioned, the most important thing is to simply review family history questions, do an appropriate physical exam, and make sure there are no concerning clinical symptoms present in a young athlete screened prior to sports competition. The guidelines definitely recommend that any young athlete, regardless of age, should be screened by a physician with a detailed history and physical, only.

If you missed out on this live chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the chat transcript. You can also visit Emory Sports Cardiology and Emory Sports Medicine Center for more information.

Also, if you have additional questions for Dr. Kim or Dr. Jayanthi, please feel free to leave a comment in our comments area below.

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