Athlete’s heart is a medical condition where the heart grows to a larger size than usual. This is commonly caused by high amounts of exercise over a period of time — often more than an hour each day. Although athlete’s heart syndrome isn’t thought to be dangerous, there are other more serious conditions that mimic the problem. The syndrome is also sometimes referred to as athletic bradycardia.
Although there are no external symptoms of athletic heart syndrome, a low heart rate is possible sign. It’s more likely to be discovered by accident during a screening or scan process. In most cases when the condition has been diagnosed some additional tests are required to check that it’s not a more serious problem such as cardiomyopathy.
The human heart has an ability to adapt that most people aren’t aware of. Over time, large amounts of aerobic exercise will cause it to grow in size just like any other muscle in the body. How much the heart grows depends on the exercise intensity and frequency. Aerobic exercise such as jogging can increase the size of the heart and short, intense activities such as weight lifting can increase the wall strength.
In the majority of cases, athlete’s heart is a harmless condition and hence treatment isn’t required. If, however, the athlete experiences chest pains or other symptoms of heart problems, he or she should visit a doctor in order for more extensive tests to take place. These other symptoms may just be a sign that the body is having difficulty changing to cope with the new heart size or they may be an indication of a serious problem. Sometimes an athlete with a larger heart will experience arrhythmia — an irregular heartbeat.
Typically an athlete will need to train for more than an hour each and every day before athlete’s heart becomes an issue. Even then, there is no guarantee that it will happen. The condition should not always be considered a negative syndrome as it can just be a sign of fitness.
There are occasions where otherwise healthy athletes have died during a sporting activity for seemingly no reason. On closer examination this is usually traced back to some sort of heart problem and this is sometimes mistaken as athlete’s heart. In fact, the problem is nearly always identified as a different heart problem. Even so, it’s usually a good idea for someone with athlete’s heart to get regular check-ups.