Like most things, exercise should be done in moderation. While it is essential for people’s health to remain active, exercise can be overdone, leading to injuries and heart attacks. If you’re not sure whether you’re working out too often, this information can help you discover if too much exercise is damaging to your health.

Signs of Heart Disease

Although most people know that being sedentary and not exercising is bad for their health, but over exercising can be as well for people with chronic health problems. However, if you don't know you have cardiovascular disease, some symptoms of it may manifest themselves while you’re exercising. These symptoms include:

Feeling Discomfort in Chest

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While many heart attacks involve sudden, intense pain in the chest area, others start with milder symptoms. Instead of excruciating pain, it may feel like pressure, squeezing or fullness in your chest.

Sometimes the pain comes and goes, but if you experience it for several minutes, then you should stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention. Some people feel pain in other areas of their bodies as well. If chest pain seems to radiate to your back, jaw, neck or stomach or if you feel pressure in those areas, get medical attention.

Shortness of Breath

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While it’s normal to feel short of breath during cardiovascular workouts, if your chest feels uncomfortable and you feel unusually breathless, it could indicate a heart attack. The breathlessness can appear with or without discomfort in the chest, so don’t assume your breathlessness is due to your workout.

Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded

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Although exercising can make people feel tired, they shouldn’t feel dizzy or lightheaded while working out. If you begin to feel these symptoms, you should immediately stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention.

Heart Rhythm Changes

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During cardiovascular workouts, your heart rate will increase, but working out shouldn’t cause heart palpitations, thumping, or it shouldn’t skip beats. If you do feel these symptoms, seek help.

Unusual Sweating

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When exercising, you may sweat, but it shouldn’t feel cold. If you’re sweating profusely and you’ve only had a light workout, or you break out with a cold sweat, especially if you also feel nauseous, have someone call 911.

If you have these symptoms, you shouldn’t brush them off or continue your workout. Stop what you are doing and seek medical help by calling 911. According to the American Heart Association, you shouldn’t wait for more than five minutes to get help.

If you don't want to call 911, have someone take you to an emergency room right away. Do not drive yourself unless it is necessary because if you pass out while driving, then there could be an accident that can cause further complications and a delay in getting the help you need.

Know Your Limitations

If you’re a cardiac patient, you can still exercise to lose weight and get in better shape, but it’s important to consult your cardiologist before starting an exercise regimen. Avoid intense workouts unless your doctor gives you the okay for them.

Exercise should be done in moderation if you have heart problems, haven’t been exercising, or are at risk for heart disease. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Family History
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure

Nontraditional Symptoms

Along with the more classic symptoms of heart disease above, there are also other signs of cardiovascular problems of which people need to be aware.

Fat Bumps Under Skin

If you have yellowish or fatty bumps beneath your skin, a condition is known as Xanthoma, it can indicate a higher than normal level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL (bad) cholesterol, in your blood. The bumps vary in size and can appear anywhere on the body, including the hands, feet, and around joints.

Xanthelasma palpebrarum is a type of xanthoma that includes bumps that grow on the upper or lower eyelid or near the nose. The presence of both the yellow bumps and the eye condition can be a sign of a serious heart problem, so you need to consult your doctor about these conditions.

Creases in Earlobes

If someone has creases in their earlobes, then they may have heart disease. This symptom, called Frank’s sign, indicates a higher risk of atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque in the arteries. More than 40 studies have found links to this condition and these physical characteristics.

A recent study also found a link between the creases and cerebrovascular disease, which is a disease in the blood vessels of the brain.

Swollen Feet

If you notice your shoes or socks are too tight, look at your feet, ankles, and shins to check for swelling. If these extremities are swollen, then you may have edema, which is an accumulation of fluid in the body causes swelling.

The build-up of fluid stems from a heart that isn’t pumping correctly. It could be from weak heart

muscles, heart defects, or heart failure. It can reduce blood flow and cause it to pool in the heart. If you have fluid building up, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Dental Problems

When brushing your teeth, if you notice loose teeth or bleeding gums, then these signs can indicate heart disease. There are both good and bad bacteria in your mouth, and if the bad bacteria enter the blood, then it can cause inflammation that can lead to heart disease. Researchers have found links to gum disease and tooth loss to cardiovascular disease.

Blue Tint to Lips

The color of a person's lips can also indicate that they may have heart disease. While lips are usually red, they can have a blue tint (cyanosis) to them if blood doesn’t properly circulate through the body. This sign could mean that the heart isn’t pumping correctly, and you should consult your physician, especially if you have other signs of cardiovascular disease.

How Much is Too Much?

Research shows that extreme, or endurance, athletes often have higher rates of heart issues than those who exercise moderately. Their condition is due to high levels of intense exercises that they do over long periods of time.

Extreme athletes are those who run marathons in quick succession, run 50 miles or more per week, or push through exhaustion, dehydration, and pain when training or competing in endurance events. Those with a family history of heart disease are especially vulnerable to developing it as they push past what most would consider normal limits.

Another study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows 27 percent of people who exercise at least three times more than the recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which is 450 minutes, were more likely to show significant symptoms of excess calcium deposits in their coronary arteries.

The presence of excess calcium can be one of the precursors of early heart disease. As plaque builds up in arteries, it constricts blood flow throughout the body, and clots can develop that lead to heart attacks and strokes. Along with calcium, plaque also consists of:

  • Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Cell Waste
  • Fibrin, which is a clotting agent.

There were 3,175 participants in the Mayo Clinic study, who were young adults at the time it began. They were asked to report on their physical activity eight times over 25 years, and CT scans were done to check their levels of calcium build-up.

one woman and three men running

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Along with finding that 27 percent of people who over-exercised had more calcium build-up, the study also found this problem was seen in white participants and not in black ones. 86 percent of white men who did too much exercise had too much calcium in their coronary arteries.

Another study in Denmark also found a link between over exercising and cardiovascular disease. In the Danish study, joggers who ran more frequently and intensely were more likely to die over the course of the study than joggers who were more moderate in their exercise levels and frequency. The risk of intense joggers was equal to those joggers who lead an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

Vigorous, long-term exercises have links to irregular heartbeats, higher levels of a protein in their blood that is damaging to heart tissue, and other heart issues according to the Mayo Clinic study. Fortunately, only about eight percent of the participants, about 268 people, was in the extreme category when it came to exercise.

While exercise can reduce heart disease when done in moderation, if you overtrain or do endurance sports, then you can increase your risk of heart disease if you have a genetic predisposition to it. To reduce your chances of damaging your heart, follow the recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Do a mix of aerobic exercises and strength training to lose weight, add muscle to your body, and get into better shape. However, be aware of the symptoms of heart disease and, if you experience any of them while in the gym or at home working out, stop what you are doing and seek immediate medical attention.

Knowing the signs of cardiovascular disease and avoiding too much exercise can save your life.

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