Men's Heart Health
Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Last week, we were shocked to hear the news that Aussie cricket legend Shane Warne died suddenly whilst overseas in Thailand. Warne was a national icon, loved by cricket enthusiasts all over the world for his ability to bamboozle batsman with his leg spin bowling.
He led what the media portrayed as a “colourful” lifestyle, a lifestyle which has likely contributed to him suffering a suspected lethal heart attack, with the autopsy results indicating he died of “natural causes”.
Shane Warne’s death has left many people stunned and questioning their own mortality, especially men. Media reports indicate Warne was a heavy smoker and some suggest his dietary choices were often unhealthy; only those close to Warne will truly know this. However, his weight seemed to fluctuate throughout his career and at the time of his death, media reports indicate he was in Thailand to improve his health, or in Warne’s words, complete “operation shred”, to lose weight. He was also coming off 14 days of a liquid only diet.
Fluctuations in weight are often indicative of someone’s inability to sustain a consistently healthy eating pattern and sustain regular exercise. His choice to smoke perhaps helped Warne manage his weight though it certainly increased his risk of heart disease (significantly). There are many other factors that may have contributed to Warne’s early death and research suggests many of these important risk factors are modifiable.
You can’t change your age, gender, or genetics, but there are modifiable risk factors that you can change to reduce your risk of suffering disabling cardiovascular disease or early death. These include insufficient exercise, excessive sitting time, an unhealthy diet, excessive drug and alcohol consumption, smoking, poor sleeping patterns and high stress levels. All of which may negatively impact on things like heart rate and rhythm, cholesterol and cortisol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and countless other metabolic processes too many to mention.
Given we focus largely on exercise at our clinics, let’s look at that in a little more detail.
Many studies have demonstrated the relationship between exercise and reducing the risk of heart disease by around 50%. The right exercise, performed at the right intensity often enough, contributes to heart health in many ways:
Reduces blood pressure – exercise will help strengthen and improve the hearts efficiency decreasing the stress on the heart and arteries.
Improved lipids – many studies have demonstrated exercise influencing not only reducing bad cholesterol but also increasing good cholesterol.
Reduce inflammation – inflammation has a negative effect on all the bodies structures including our whole circulatory system.
Improve muscle function – exercise helps strengthen our muscles and in doing so the muscles work more efficiently not requiring as much oxygen and reducing the workload of the heart
Improves heart rhythm – exercise can help maintain regular heart rhythm and prevent conditions like atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias
Reduces Stress – stress and stress related hormones create more burden on the heart and exercise is a great stress reliver
Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight creates more stress on the heart and a higher-than-average waist circumference usually means higher levels visceral fat which also increases your risk of heart disease
It is well reported that men are notoriously bad at visiting their doctors for health checks even when they are experiencing warning signs. Warning signs include chest pain (Warne was reported to be experiencing some chest pain in the lead up to his death), sudden feelings of dizziness, nausea or vomiting, indigestion or heartburn, sweating and shortness of breath.
Taking note of these warning signs early and visiting your doctor (or calling an ambulance) can make all the difference in preventing deadly heart attacks.
It is recommended that all males over the age of 45 have regular heart health checks with their GP to screen for the beginning stages of heart disease through blood tests. Further testing including CT scans, echocardiograms or angiograms which may also be required.
Hopefully, one positive to come of Warne’s death is that many people will rethink their lifestyles choices, make some positive changes and perhaps go to their doctor for a health screening to ensure their cardiovascular system is in good working order. A combination of early detection and managing risk factors can help prevent up to a third of heart disease deaths.
If you or someone you know could benefit from improving their lifestyle, please get in contact with one of our Exercise Physiologists or Dietitians to get you on a healthier track – it could save their life!