My Dad had a major heart attack at age 49.
I’d knocked off work early that day so was at home to call the ambulance. Otherwise he likely would have died alone on the floor, or at best sustained permanent, life-changing damage. He wasn’t overweight, a current smoker, or an unhealthy eater. He had an active job and lifestyle.
That was over two decades ago. Thankfully he survived, made a fantastic recovery, and is still kicking around strong and healthier than ever.
As endurance athletes, we can put a LOT of stress on our hearts. Of course this is a positive thing in good measure. Giving your heart a workout builds a strong heart! But what if there are any undiagnosed heart conditions lurking in the background? And is there a point where the sheer volume of high-stress endurance work is simply too much?
I’m in my early 40’s now and fast approaching the age my Dad had his heart attack. You hear stories about high-level endurance athletes suffering heart attacks during races and later discovering they have undiagnosed, underlying cardiac issues. Super fit, super strong, super healthy guys. One of those is professional triathlete Tim O’Donnell. He suffered a heart attack on the bike leg at Challenge Miami, all captured and broadcast live to the world. The video below is 10 minutes long, but well worth watching.
Quite frankly. That is scary. I do not want that to happen to me! I feel fit, I look fit, I take care of myself as best I can. But hidden under the hood? Who knows what may be going on. With a family history of heart disease and other possibly-genetic conditions, I thought it prudent to get fully checked out!
The first step in this process is a check-up with the local GP. Here’s the thing though, I don’t go to the doctors. I just don’t. The last time I went was when I came off my bike and then only because my colleagues made me! Before that, I can’t even remember. Booking an appointment was a big step forward for me. After much procrastination, I made the call and booked in for a full heath check-up.
I’ll cover the initial appointment and testing in Part 2 of this series…