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Build The Body, But Don`t Break The Heart

When blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked it could result in a heart attack. Usually, a block occurs due to the build-up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. The deposition of plaque within arteries is called atherosclerosis. When there is atherosclerosis in a coronary artery (supplying blood to the heart muscles), it could reduce blood and oxygen supply to the muscles that pump the heart. Sometimes, the plaque could dislodge and form a clot to block the blood flow. This condition is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction. 

Gym heart attack - Strenuous physical activity or exercises like those done in gyms can cause sudden cardiac death. More often than not, there are undiagnosed blockages in such persons. 

Strenuous workouts in the gym can also cause rupture of the plaque deposits or could even trigger electrical disturbances in the heart.

What Is A Heart Scan?

A heart scan or coronary calcium scan is an X-ray that can help detect and measure plaque within the arteries. These plaques can increase in size and block blood flow to the heart muscles. By measuring calcified plaque, it is possible to identify coronary heart disease before any signs and symptoms appear. 

Athletes who take part in major competitions are evaluated beforehand because the risk of sudden cardiac death is 2.5 times more in them than in the normal population. In the same way, youth who visit the gym for heavy training should be advised to undergo a complete cardiovascular evaluation to detect any abnormality.

Gym Heart Attack - The Risks Involved:

Strenuous Exercises 

Strenuous exercises and intense training at the gym increase the tissues’ need for oxygen. It is the heart that pumps oxygenated blood to the tissues and muscles. When the heart is overworked to provide increasing levels of oxygen, it starts growing larger. There is greater than normal stress on the heart in such cases.

Increased Blood Pressure

Moderate physical activity is recommended to prevent and manage hypertension (increased blood pressure). But in people who pursue vigorous training, hypertension is very common. This makes them susceptible to left ventricular hypertrophy and coronary artery disease. Sudden increases in blood pressure can also cause the destabilization of atherosclerotic plaques which could result in myocardial infarction.

Undiagnosed Blockages And Malfunctioning

Coronary artery disease is very common in young people who visit the gym. It is mainly due to undiagnosed blockages from atherosclerosis. Sometimes faulty electrical signals cause sudden cardiac death. Irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia can cause the lower chambers to unnecessarily contract without actually pumping blood. 

Seeking Medical Attention Is Important

It is important to seek medical attention when the following signs or symptoms are felt:

  • Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t subside

  • Pain radiating down the left arm, or to the neck, or jaw.

  • Unconsciousness, seizures, or fits

  • Difficulty in breathing, rapid heartbeat

  • Bluish discolouration of lips, hands

  • Nausea, sweating, coughing up blood.

Risks Associated With Excessive Workouts

Besides causing excessive strain on the heart, body building or excessive weightlifting can lead to another serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. This occurs when muscles are injured beyond the limit to which they can adapt. Severely injured muscles cause a specific protein to leak and enter the blood circulation. This can get stuck in the kidneys, causing them to fail and leading to the failure of multiple organs.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Heart Attack 

Regular levels of physical activity help to lower the risk of heart disease. They help in controlling body weight and maintaining blood pressure. Cholesterol and glucose levels are also maintained with a good diet and activity. Experts say:

  • Generally, about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is recommended.

  • Running and other more vigorous activities for about 75 minutes per week.

  • Bodybuilding or strength training can be done twice a week. 

Things To Do To Avoid Chest Pain During Exercise

  • Aerobic exercises provide a lot of benefits and improve breathing quality.

  • While exercising in the gym, it is important to warm up with a slow start. This helps blood vessels to start widening, increasing the blood flow.

  • After an intense session, it's vital to slow down gradually. Cooling down is as important as warming up.

  • If a new exercise causes difficulty in talking or breathlessness, it means the body is being overworked. It is better to proceed with caution and to consult with an expert.


Before hitting the gym, it is good to have a counselling session with a cardiologist. Those with an existing heart condition will benefit from a safe exercise program that will be customized for each individual. For instance, overexercising is contraindicated for an individual with coronary artery disease. Whereas, someone else who has problems with heart rhythm need not worry about more strenuous workouts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1) Can Whey Protein Cause A Heart Attack?

There are reports of an increased association between bodybuilding and acute myocardial infarction. Body builders have been known to abuse anabolic steroids and dietary protein supplements like whey protein powder. Research has not been able to prove a direct link between whey protein and heart attack but cardiologists advise bodybuilders to stop taking such protein supplements. 

Q.2) Can Protein Shake Damage Your Heart?

Adding protein powders to a glass of milk or having protein shakes comes with a few risks. Some of these powders contain a lot of sugar, leading to unhealthy glucose spikes. Long-term usage could cause weight gain and diabetes, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.