Monday Medical: Exercise can pose risks | SteamboatToday.com

Monday Medical: Exercise can pose risks

Christine McKelvie/For the Steamboat Today

Christine McKelvie

Exercise is a key to good health for most people. Yet when an individual suffers a heart attack or cardiac arrest during a basketball game, soccer match, football practice or a cross-country ski outing, the tragic news travels fast.

If you go

What: Taking Care of Me program "The Heart of an Athlete: From the Motivated Beginner to the Elite Athlete"

When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Hospital’s conference rooms

Contact: RSVP to 970-870-1119 or http://www.yvmc.org/calendar.

Cardiologist Dr. William Baker will discuss the risks associated with exercise.

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That's when Steamboat Springs cardiologist Dr. William Baker hears a repetitive question: "What about me? Could it happen to me?"

There is no simple answer. Baker will address this topic in his free Taking Care of Me discussion, "The Heart of an Athlete," next week at Yampa Valley Medical Center. The presentation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in YVMC's conference rooms.

"This talk is designed for a broad audience, not just older adults who are more aware of their cardiac risk factors," Baker said. "I would like to see young athletes, parents, coaches and people of all ages who are exercising and think they are healthy."

Increasingly, Baker has become concerned about the risks posed by the growing intensity of workouts and competitions for adult athletes. For some, exercise may have become too much of a good thing.

"Walking and jogging were considered good exercise the last few decades," he said. "Then marathons became more popular, and now we're seeing many ultra-marathons of up to 100 miles or 24 hours.

"Manic workouts and cross-fit exercise have become a big thing. People are attacking workouts, and trainers or coaches are screaming at them to go harder," Baker said. "I certainly don't want to discourage exercise, but there is a sub-set of people who need to be evaluated before undertaking intense workouts."

Baker divides athletes by age, pointing out that high school and college players face a different set of cardiac issues than adults. He advocates pre-participation examinations that can identify who needs additional evaluation.

Adults fall into several categories, starting with people who simply want to exercise moderately to gain or sustain fitness. "Weekend warriors," those who exercise vigorously once or twice per week, may put a little more strain on their hearts.

Elite athletes who train hard for competitions are in a class by themselves, Baker said. And then there are those who have had cardiac events and want to know what level of exercise and training is healthy for them.

Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of fatalities in the United States. The American Heart Association points out that athletic training and competition can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death in people with underlying heart disease.

One of Baker's goals is to help individuals understand their personal cardiac risk factors. When young athletes are stricken on the playing field or adults experience cardiac problems while exercising, the tragedy often is underlined by the fact that their conditions were undetected.

"It is devastating to tell a young person 'I'm sorry, you can't play anymore,'" Baker said. "But that is a much better alternative than to have that athlete putting himself or herself at risk, not knowing about a potentially fatal heart condition."

Who should be evaluated for risk and intensity of exercise? What is a reasonable screening program? How do you tailor your exercise based on your personal risk? Baker plans to answer these questions during his Feb. 11 talk.

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

If you go

What: Taking Care of Me program “The Heart of an Athlete: From the Motivated Beginner to the Elite Athlete”

When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Hospital’s conference rooms

Contact: RSVP to 970-870-1119 or http://www.yvmc.org/calendar.

Cardiologist Dr. William Baker will discuss the risks associated with exercise.

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