Are heart disease and sport compatible?

It is possible, although with many nuances, explains Dr. Javier Suárez de Lezo Herreros de Tejada, interventional cardiologist, since it depends on the type of heart disease the patient has and the type of sport he/she wants to practice.

It will largely depend on whether the sport in question requires aerobic or anaerobic endurance. Sport has multiple benefits for all people, including those affected by heart disease, however, it must be accompanied by heart-healthy habits and medical approval.

What are the benefits of practicing sports?

It facilitates the control of risk factors, reduces blood pressure, improves the lipid profile, raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol, as well as having other beneficial effects on our health.

Which people can benefit from sport?

It also depends on many factors. It is not the same when you start a sport with a bad previous condition as it is to do it in a recreational way with a low degree of intensity. In competitive sport, for example, a higher degree of intensity training is required. The elite athlete Javier Gómez Noya is world champion in triathlon, one of the most demanding sports in existence. Gómez suffers from a relevant cardiopathy and, nevertheless, he is not harmed by the practice of sports.

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What types of heart disease are there?

There are different types of heart disease, the most common being chemical heart disease. There are also those produced by valvular narrowing or associated with sudden death such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or arrhythmogenic dysplasia. The latter was the heart disease suffered by the soccer player Antonio Puerta. These heart diseases can lead to heart failure that prevents the heart from maintaining the required oxygen needs and demands.

What should be taken into account when choosing a sport in this situation?

Above all, the oxygen consumption needs, 70% being the recommended limit. Likewise, sports with high-intensity dynamic components are not recommended for patients with heart disease.

What phases should a patient with heart disease go through before practicing sports?

Cardiac rehabilitation has three phases:

  • The first phase is in the hospital. This is when the heart disease is treated and the first advice is given.
  • The second phase is from admission to the hospital until a few months after treatment. A personalized training program is then created according to the musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiological situation of each patient. Finally, a stress test with echocardiography is performed to plan monitored training.
  • The third phase consists of applying and maintaining all the advice learned in the hospital phase.

Can age be an impediment for patients with heart disease?

Not at all. I know of one case in particular that proves the opposite. This is a patient who went through the entire rehabilitation process and after 22 sessions without any cardiac incidents returned to sport. He is the person with the best adherence I have ever met, since he trains 6-7 times a week, that is to say, practically every day, at 69 years of age, for 90 minutes.