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Checklist for fitness enthusiasts and families

Determine your medical history, examine your family’s health history and assess potential risk factors for heart disease before its too late. Risk factors to be aware of include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Family history of sudden cardiac arrest at young age (under 50)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Cholesterol levels (HDL – “good” cholesterol, LDL – “bad” cholesterol)
  • Impaired fasting glucose levels (could lead to diabetes)
  • Obesity (measured through Body Mass Index and waist-to-hip ratios)

Do you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions?

  • Do you feel pain in your chest when you are physically active?
  • Do you lose your balance because of dizziness?
  • Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs for a blood pressure or heart condition?
  • Do you always need to “catch up” when running or swimming?
  • Have you experienced fainting spells after working out or playing high-energy sports?
  • If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, you may require a medical screening

Overview of factors for genetic cardiac conditions, including:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young adults under the age of 30. HCM is a congenital cardiovascular condition, meaning it is easily inherited from family members, and is characterized by enlargement of the left ventricle, resulting in obstruction to blood flow
  • Long Q-T Syndrome – Long Q-T, one of the causes of sudden cardiac arrest, is an infrequent, hereditary disorder of the heart’s electrical rhythm that can occur in otherwise-healthy people. It usually affects children or young adults
  • Additional Arrhythmias – For more information on other arrhythmias and heart disorders that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest, please visit the Medical Information section of the site

Ask yourself the following general questions:

  • Do you smoke, or drink alcoholic beverages?
  • Do you have a family history of sudden cardiac arrest, heart disease, diabetes, etc?
  • Have you suffered any recent concussions resulting from sports injuries?

Learn the role of nutrition in your athletic performance:

  • Ensure that you get a healthy balance of grains, vegetables, fruits, calcium and protein
  • Understand the importance of carbohydrate intake – you should begin training sessions with your muscles and liver well stocked with glycogen, which comes from carbohydrates

Learn the importance of hydration:

  • Learn the symptoms of dehydration, which include dry or sticky mouth; low or no urine output; concentrated urine; not producing tears; and sunken eyes
  • Determine a fluid intake strategy for your workout
  • Keep in mind that just because you might not be thirsty does not mean you do not need fluids

If you suffer with asthma, consider the following to ensure safe sport:

  • Take medicine regularly
  • Take the appropriate amount of medicine
  • Keep an inhaler with you at all times
  • Tell people, friends, coaches and teachers that you have asthma
  • Do not limit yourself or stop playing sports because of your asthma
  • Determine what triggers your asthma attacks

Make sure you know the dangers of temperature related illnesses if you are playing sports outdoors:

  • Learn the symptoms and prevention methods for hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) which include:
  • Symptoms: Heat cramps, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, weakness, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and heat stroke
  • Prevention: Avoid strenuous exertion, wear light and loose-fitting clothes, consume lightly salted foods and beverages and us air-conditioning and / or fans
  • Learn the symptoms and prevention methods for hypothermia (a severe decrease of body temperature) which include:
  • Symptoms: Shivering, slow and clumsy movement, slow speech, impaired judgement, slowing of breathing and heart beat
  • Prevention: Maintain a warm environment, wear several layers of clothing, eat warm foods and drink warm fluids, avoid alcoholic beverages, exercise regularly

Prevent injuries by:

  • Doing warm up exercises, even before non-vigorous activities
  • Using a regular stretching program
  • Cooling down after high-energy sports
  • Wearing properly fitting shoes
  • Using the softest exercise surface available
  • Accepting your body’s limits
  • Increasing your exercise level gradually
  • Avoid playing through the pain as this is usually a warning sign that you need medical attention
  • Wear proper equipment while participating in sports to avoid serious injuries like concussions, broken bones or ligament injuries