Former athletes face increased risk of high blood pressure and heart attack
It is useful to stay attached to sports after retirement. In addition to regular cardiovascular screening, one should maintain a regular exercise routine in tune with one’s age
Dr Ramakanta Panda Last Updated:December 20, 2022 14:05:53 IST
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As early as March 2008, researchers at The Mayo Clinic had suggested that 82 per cent of NFL (National Football League) players under age 50 had abnormal narrowing and blockages in arteries, compared to the general population of the same age. This was a nearly acknowledgement of former athletes facing increased risk of experiencing high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.
This issue came to light again when cricketer Ricky Ponting had a heart scare in December 2022 and Sourav Ganguly had one in January 2021. Not just cricketers but all field-based athletes came into the purview of an August 2019 study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine stated that “retired athletes with an elevated body mass index had an increased prevalence and severity of risk factors.”
The Mayo Clinic study was the first and largest study to measure comprehensive cardiovascular performance measures on retired NFL athletes, aged 35 to 65. Since then, we have been sensitive to poor heart health among retired athletes.
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Why does this happen?
Due to heavy training, athletes develop some adaptive changes to their heart. Athlete’s heart is not a medical condition. There are a few changes that occur in the hearts of individuals who participate in intense athletic training. For eg;1. Small increases in size both of the pumping chamber (ventricle) and filling chamber (atrium).2. Proportionate increases in the thickness of the heart muscle.3. Small increases in the width of the main blood vessel from the heart.
These are positive changes that allow the heart an increased ability to supply blood and oxygen to exercising tissues. But post retirement, the same level of activity is not maintained and these adaptations cannot be sustained.
Many athletes also have poor heart healthy diets and post retirement slip into a sedentary lifestyle along with a poor diet routine. Former sportspersons who have gone into either administrative work or desk jobs need to be extra careful and maintain at least moderate level of physical activity along with a healthy diet and habits. . There is also the stress of losing the perquisites of active sports lives, after retirement.
You cannot let go completely after retirement.
It is useful to stay attached to sports after retirement. In addition to regular cardiovascular screening, one should maintain a regular exercise routine in tune with one’s age.
Dr Ramakanta Panda is the world’s leading cardiac surgeon and head of Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute. He has been conferred the Padma Bhushan in January 2010, the third highest civilian award in India. He is an ambassador for healthcare reform in India and is among the world’s safest heart surgeons with a 99.8% success rate in bypass surgery. Views are personal.