Heart screenings can save athletes’ lives

Athletes experience many physical benefits when they exercise. For example, they display excellent cardiovascular health, lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes…the list goes on and on. But, did you know that athletes may still be at risk for undiagnosed heart disease?

 

Exercise puts strain on the heart – the heart is a muscle after all. If the heart is weak because of an underlying condition, serious episodes can occur. 

 

At Vasolabs we care about the well-being of all patients and clinic members, and sometimes that means taking precautions by proactively screening for heart disease. Keep reading to learn the importance of athletes being screened for heart disease before competing. 

 

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Athletes

It’s important to stress the importance of cardiovascular screening to your patients who are also athletes, but it is also important to know the symptoms of heart disease in athletes so that you know when to recommend a screening. If your patients are having the symptoms below, it is even more important that they get cardiovascular screening conducted. 

 

Symptoms of heart disease in athletes can include:

  • Fainting during exercise
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Unusual heart racing/skipping
  • An unexplained decline in exercise tolerance 

 

Not all athletes with undiagnosed heart disease will have all of the symptoms above. Sometimes a highly-tuned body will mask symptoms. But if your patients are experiencing any of these symptoms or a combination, then they should be screened for heart disease.

 

Why Athletes Should be Screened for Heart Disease 

The purpose of any health screening is to identify issues early in high-risk patients. By treating heart disease early, health practitioners have a better chance of achieving improved prognosis. 

 

The main reason that athletes should be screened for heart disease is to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD). A study conducted by Current Sports Medicine Reports found that over a “2-year prospective study with more than 1.5 million athletes-years and 2.5 million nonathlete years of surveillance for SCA events in U.S high schools, student-athletes were 3.6 times more likely to experience SCA than their nonathlete peers.” Even though there are tremendous physical benefits to consistent exercise, vigorous athletic activity can increase the risk of SCD. 

 

When we conduct screenings for sudden cardiac death, we are looking for the most common disorders that are associated with SCD. ECG abnormalities are present in about 90% of patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy HCM. Additionally, ECG is the standard for diagnosis of ion channelopathies and ventricular preexcitation. While ECG can be helpful in the early detection of at-risk conditions, no screening strategy is completely foolproof, but it is much better than doing nothing. 

 

What Heart Screenings Should Athletes Have Performed? 

At Vasolables, we recommend athletes undergo our most valuable player heart screening, which is a quick screen of the heart using ultrasound images. The images create a picture of the patient’s heart which is then measured to find any abnormalities, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM can cause sudden cardiac death in young athletes. It is believed to exist in 1 in 500 individuals and to cause one case of SCD every three days. 

 

The good thing is that once the condition is discovered, it can be managed. But it is vital that the condition is detected early. The most effective way to make sure athletes are safe is to have a heart screening performed. 

 

Partner with Vasolabs To Provide Convenient and Life-Saving Screening for Your Patients

We partner with doctors’ offices and health clinics to provide convenient and life-saving screenings. If people detect heart disease early, they can partner with their health teams to stay healthy. Plus, our convenient in-office screenings mean clinic members don’t have to visit multiple offices to have screenings performed. 

Learn more about how you can have heart screenings scheduled for your athletes on-site, today!

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