Too Much Exercise: Can it Hurt Your Heart?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – When it comes to exercise, can you have too much of a good thing? The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of muscle strengthening each week, but what about those people who take their workouts to the next level – could that actually have a negative impact on their heart?

“Endurance athletes, you know, the cross-country skiers, swimmers, people who do the marathon and bikers – they’ve seen a slight increase in atrial fibrillation as they get to middle age,” says preventive cardiologist at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, Dr. Pamela Rama.

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Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm. A healthy heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, but a heart with AFib can beat 140, 170, and even 190 times per minute. New research found that years of heavy training may contribute to an increased risk of developing AFib.

Dr. Rama explains, “The problem with atrial fibrillation is, it puts you at risk for having a stroke because it’s such a disorganized rhythm.”

The reason? Over time, exertion not only strengthens our hearts, but remodels it.

“The atrial fibrillation is generated from the left atrium. So, when you have a remodeling of that, it makes the left atrium a little bit bigger. You might form some scar tissue and it makes them more prone to having atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Rama further explains.

The study published in The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found, out of 942 long-time endurance athletes, 20 percent – almost all middle-aged men – had AFib, three percent suffered a stroke and swimmers were at a higher risk. But doctors warn not to overreact – this isn’t an excuse not to exercise.

Dr. Rama adds, “Low to moderate intensity exercise is always good for you, and actually, it reduces your risk of atrial fibrillation.”

But what this study does suggest – nobody is immune to cardiac concerns, no matter how fit they feel.

So, what can you do? Pay attention to sudden heart palpitations or shortness of breath – especially during exercise – also, if you have unexplained declines in your performance, and keep an eye on your smartwatch for any spikes in your heart rate.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5258

BACKGROUND: Exercise can trigger or exacerbate cardiovascular issues, and common conditions characterized by irregular and often rapid heartbeats. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the upper chambers of the heart experience chaotic electrical signals, leading them to quiver instead of contracting properly. As a result, the atria don’t efficiently pump blood into the lower chambers, leading to an irregular and often faster heart rate. Studies show that vigorous exercise five to seven days a week in people under 50 increases the chances of developing AF greatly.


DIAGNOSING: Symptoms of cardiovascular disease include rapid heartbeats, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, a light head, inability to exercise, shortness of breath, and weakness. Diagnosing atrial fibrillation typically involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, and specific tests to assess the heart’s electrical activity. Due to the intermittent nature of AF, sometimes it can be challenging to diagnose. Diagnosis commonly requires a medical history, a physical examination, an EKG, and blood tests.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: New research from Rush University shows that women are more likely than men to develop atrial fibrillation. For a long time, the disease was considered more common in men, but new findings suggest this to not be the case. A recent study published in JAMA showed that when height is accounted for, women who exercise vigorously were more at risk. Harvard findings showed they are at a 50 percent higher risk.



Emily Sharpe

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Pamela Rama, Preventive Cardiologist

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