It is well known that regular exercise promotes health and can prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease. However, in certain situations, acute exercise can induce adverse events such as heart attack and sudden death, particularly in individuals who have been previously inactive. In general, these events do not occur in individuals with a normal functioning cardiovascular system.
Apparently healthy individuals engaging in moderate-intensity exercise are at low risk for these rare occurrences. But, the risk of these events increases with participation in vigorous-intensity exercise in the presence of either diagnosed or silent (not yet evident to the affected individual) cardiovascular disease. Adults are at a greater risk for exercise-induced adverse events than younger individuals because of the higher incidence of cardiovascular disease in this population. Risk of heart attack and sudden death also increase with increased prevelance of cardiovascular disease in the population exercising.
It is important for you to understand what the warning signs and symptoms are of an adverse cardiovascular event. Then, you will know when to seek immediate medical attention. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Pain and Discomfort (note symptoms can start slowly
with mild discomfort/pain or can be of sudden onset)
a. Location: chest, shoulders, one or both arms, neck, back,
jaw, teeth, and/or cheeks
b. Sensation: pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning,
constricting, and/or heaviness that may radiate or
2. Shortness of Breath (defined as unusually difficult or
4. Cold Sweats
8. Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat
9. Unusual Fatigue
Gender Differences in Symptoms:
Chest discomfort or pain is the most common sign of a heart attack for both men and women. However, women are more likely than men to experience atypical signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back, and/or jaw pain.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, even if you are uncertain that they are a result of a life-threatening condition, you should STOP EXERCISING and SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY. MINUTES MATTER in cardiovascular emergencies. When in doubt CALL 911.
ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, eighth edition
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Labels: ACSM, American Heart Association, chest pain/discomfort, dizziness, heart attack, irregular heart beat, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, sudden cardiac death, warning signs and symptoms