Getting Into Sports over the Age of 35? Take Precautions to Prevent Risk of Sudden Death

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Cardiologists are warning “older athletes”− individuals over 35 – about the risk of sudden death due to participation in organized endurance and competitive sports events. “Because of increasing numbers of older people participating…the incidence of sports-related death is expected to rise,” according to Sumeet Chugh, M.D., of Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Joseph B. Weiss, M.D., of Brown University.

In an article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the doctors noted that sudden death in the older athlete usually relates to significant coronary artery disease and that individuals need to be thoroughly screened to identify the presence of such a condition.

My Viewpoint: I couldn’t agree more about the importance of thorough screening. I worked in emergency room situations for years where I was confronted with many older sedentary individuals who experienced a heart attack after deciding to resume exercise, jogging, or jump into some sports program. I wasn’t always successful in saving their lives.

  What This Means to You: Although exercise is important for health, strenuous exercise, particularly in a deconditioned body, represents a temporary risk elevation for sudden cardiac death.
Recommendation: Don’t jump into any vigorous physical activity if you have long been inactive. First consult with a doctor specializing in sports medicine or cardiology. Get screened and if you get a green light, pursue a training program that starts simple and slow. Work your way slowly back into condition. That will substantially reduce a risk of a heart attack. Get moving, but do it smartly.


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