What is the role of sports cardiology

A cardiological check-up is an essential tool for those who practice sport regularly. For this reason, sports cardiology does not stop being preventive cardiology in the first instance.

Its duty is to avoid the patient’s risk during sports practice by assessing whether the patient has contraindications for physical activity and, if so, the extent of these contraindications with a view to promoting risk-free sports practice. It is worth mentioning that one of the pillars of cardiovascular prevention is to encourage physical activity and physical exercise, not only as a way of preventing cardiovascular complications, but also as part of the treatment of many, if not almost all, cardiac pathologies.

Another important aspect is the assessment of patients who have problems during sports practice, either lack of progression in their training or intolerance to efforts with imminent fatigue and inability to sustain efforts. In the first case, a complete assessment can identify the problem and propose training modifications to avoid stagnation and maximize sporting efficiency.

In the second case, a conditioned training program adapted to the patient can overcome this situation by training the base, which is cardiac efficiency, and then developing exertional capacities from lower to higher intensity.

It usually takes about 6-8 weeks to have a favorable response with three days of weekly training and after completing this program the patient is ready to perform any type of training. In addition, a sports cardiologist can help you measure your exercise capacity and plan training strategies to get the most out of it.

Why is it necessary to undergo a check-up?

We need to know that the progression of cardiovascular disease is silent. Arteriosclerosis, which would be the cause of most cardiovascular problems and which consists of the deposit of cholesterol plaques that obstruct the arteries that deliver oxygenated blood to the tissues, may be occurring and not give us symptoms in our daily routine, but after putting the heart to a higher level of demand can result in a situation of lack of irrigation that could trigger unfortunate events.

In addition, cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and high cholesterol have to be controlled periodically to avoid the appearance of future complications.

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If we break down the cardiac check-up into all its components, firstly we will have an interview that will identify current problems and components that increase cardiac risk. Secondly, an echocardiogram that will allow us to see the structure and function of the heart, its valves and great vessels and allows us to detect scars of previous heart attacks, cardiomyopathies or aneurysms for example.

And finally, the patient will be subjected to the stress test which consists of taking your heart to maximum stress by exerting effort with a progressively increasing intensity while blood pressure and heart rate are monitored through an electrocardiogram. In this way, the function of the heart is assessed, its response to effort and signs of ischemia or lack of blood supply to the heart due to obstruction of the coronary arteries that provide blood flow to the heart can be detected.

Can we train our heart?

Of course, the important thing is to train our own capacity to increase it progressively. In those people who are unable to tolerate efforts, what happens is that they try to train in capacities much higher than their own, causing overtraining and early fatigue. With a guided training, attending to the own capacities of each patient, this situation can be avoided and the patient’s own capacity can be increased.

In this field, Dr. Portugal del Pino has a lot of experience with patients who normally have high heart rates at rest, very high heart rates at minimum effort and persistently high heart rates at the end of exercise with prolonged recovery.

Can certain results contraindicate 100% of sports practice?

Unfortunately, there are some pathologies that effectively contraindicate or contraindicate many sports. It is also true that most of the pathologies we see, once stabilized, are no longer a contraindication, such as myocarditis, pericarditis or unstable angina.

But it is true that others, such as some cardiomyopathies or growths of large vessels, are pathologies that can evolve for the worse or cause life-threatening situations for patients.