I Was An Athlete In High School And College. Can That Affect My Risk Of Developing An Abnormal Heart Rhythm?

Question: I was an athlete in high school and college. Can that affect my risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm?

Answer :Arrhythmias in athletes are generally uncommon, but when they happen, they're striking, they're dramatic and they often make the news. When they happen, we may see a young person who's often a leader in society, who's looked up to, suddenly collapse. However, the risk of an arrhythmia -- and a dangerous arrhythmia -- in athletes is generally one in 100,000. If you were an athlete in high school or in college, that does not increase your risk later in life of developing a heart rhythm problem.

What is important is to continue a regular pattern of exercise. Regular exercise, over the long term, lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, lowers your stress levels and lowers your risk of having heart-related problems. On the other hand, however, if you're a former athlete who's abandoned exercise and you want to come back to an exercise program, it's important to remember that you're no longer in high school or college and that you should begin gradually, building up to a moderate exercise program, which would be helpful. Abrupt levels of intense exercise in someone who doesn't regularly exercise just puts a stress on the system and is not helpful with regards to arrhythmia or heart disease.

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