It’s both tragic and alarming to hear of an athlete dying from sudden cardiac arrest – particularly during a race. Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome or SADS is a generic term for a sudden cardiac death where no definite cause can be found.
According to the charity CRY – Cardiac Risk in the Young – there are currently 12 deaths a week from undiagnosed heart conditions.
Exercise triggers a dangerous heart rhythm only when an abnormality already exists, says Chris Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
He urges anyone embarking on or involved with endurance sport to have a check up with their doctor.
“By identifying a condition we can take preventative strategies. These include conservative measures like lifestyle modification (including easing back on intense exercise), medication like betablockers, or intervention strategies like pacemakers.”
Up to 80 per cent of inherited heart conditions and electrical disturbances can also be detected by screening, says Dr Aneil Malhotra, who specialises in sports cardiology, and who led the medical team at last year’s World Series race in Hyde Park. Log onto testmyheart.org for details of CRYs free nationwide clinics for 14-35 year olds. If there’s a family history ask your GP about NHS screening.
Outside of those ages (when heart conditions usually present) a private screening costs approximately £100.