Monday, February 1, 2016

Larry Creswell, M.D.

Some Thoughts on Ideal Heart Health

A month or so ago, I shared on Twitter the results of a survey by the American Heart Association (AHA). In early 2010, nearly 40% of Americans believed they had “ideal heart health,” but in fact only 1% did. That’s a big disconnect. Gordo asked if I’d devote a column to this subject, so here are my thoughts. At the end, I think there’s probably some good news for many of our Endurance Corner readers.

Think Twice About NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been in the news recently and athletes should take notice. In a report in the British Medical Journal entitled, “Cardiovascular safety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: network meta-analysis,” a group of Swiss investigators reviewed the use of NSAIDs in a large group of patients and concluded that there are important cardiovascular risks associated with the use of these medications.

What does that mean for athletes?

Exercise is Good!

It’s that time of year when resolutions are on people’s minds. As we all know, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to exercise -- often for the stated purpose of losing weight. But exercise is good for so much more. For those who want to keep score, here’s a quick tabulation of the documented health benefits of exercise.

The Skinny on Your Cholesterol

The off-season is the logical time to pause and reflect on our health and make plans as we look ahead. We should be as deliberate about our health planning as we are about next season’s training plan and goals. This is the opportunity to think about (and schedule) our own preventive health maintenance.

Today, I thought we’d talk about serum (in the bloodstream) cholesterol and lipid levels. Please keep in mind that whole books have been written about this topic, so our discussion here will necessarily only cover the essentials. But every athlete should know the essentials!

Skip a Beat Lately?

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

(This article originally appeared in October, 2010)

Who hasn’t said, at some point or another, that my heart “skipped a beat”? As it turns out, the heart rarely “skips” a beat in the literal sense, but there are a variety of abnormal heartbeats or heart rhythms (called arrhythmias) that cause us to feel like our heart skipped a beat.

When the heart “skips” a beat, the heart rate becomes irregular. More often than not, this involves an extra heartbeat (such as a premature atrial contraction, or PAC) or an arrhythmia. Today, we’ll talk about one of these arrhythmias -- atrial fibrillation (AF). This is the most common arrhythmia that affects athletes.

The Triathlete’s Heart

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

An interesting study about the structural changes in the heart that accompany triathlon training recently got some play in the popular press. Several friends here mentioned the study and asked about my take, so I thought I’d share the findings from this study and use the opportunity to talk about the heart’s adaptation, in general, to endurance training.

Two Stories, Two Endings

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) may be the most significant chronic medical problem in the United States. More than 13 million Americans are affected and nearly one person dies every minute in this country from this condition. Importantly for the readers here, CAD is the most common cause of sudden death in athletes over the age of 40.

So what can you do about it?

What is Your Blood Telling You?

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

One topic of discussion that comes up frequently among my athlete friends is the issue of laboratory testing -- specifically, blood testing -- for seemingly healthy athletes. This is an area where there are conflicting opinions among sports medicine and other physicians who care for athletes, but I thought I’d share some of my thoughts. I’ll try to keep things practical.

Caution! Five Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

by Larry Creswell

I’ve noticed that my triathlete friends often give short shrift to some of the warning signs of potentially worrisome problems -- problems that stem from the heart or vascular system. This is particularly true for my male athlete friends! Young “healthy” men just don’t like to go to the doctor. I think that athletes like to believe they’re invincible, ignoring serious warning signs until they just simply can’t be ignored any longer. But just like plantar fasciitis, for example, it’s always best to recognize and deal with any serious heart-related problem earlier rather than later.

Spring Check-Up

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

It’s springtime and for many triathletes (at least in the northern hemisphere) this season is already underway. We’ve laid out race schedule, we’ve sketched out a training plan for the year, the bike’s been tuned up, we’ve lined up some new gear, and we’re ready to go.

I’d like you to add one more item to your early season check-list: a check-up. For you.

The Heart of the Matter

by Larry Creswell, M.D.

We’re triathletes. So we’re healthy, right?

Well, that’s probably true -- particularly if we compare ourselves to our friends or family members who are sitting on the couch watching the TV while we’re out swimming, biking or running. And in fact, the health benefits of regular exercise are well documented: decreased risk of many forms of heart disease, better weight control, better mood, improved sleep quality, decreased risk of colon or breast cancer, decreased risk of osteoporosis. The list is long.