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Silent Heart Disease Can Strike During Exercise, Says White Plains Doctor

Dr. Roger Cappucci is chief of cardiology at White Plains Hospital. Photo Credit: White Plains Hospital
Banker Jimmy Lee, 62, of Darien died in June due to cardiac complications. Photo Credit: JP Morgan Chase

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Regular exercise is good for the heart, but the recent exercise-related deaths of Jimmy Lee, a renowned investment banker at JP Morgan Chase, and David Goldberg, founder of Survey Monkey, have led many regular exercisers to wonder if they are at risk, too.

"A number of patients called me with questions after Jimmy Lee's death,” says Dr. Roger Cappucci, chief of cardiology at White Plains Hospital and a cardiologist and internal medicine physician with Scarsdale Medical Group. “I told them it is rare that someone with no known heart disease, who exercises regularly, will experience a cardiac event during exercise. But, the real concern is that one can have heart disease without knowing it.”

Most exercise-related cardiac events are seen in middle-age men between 40 and 65 years old, according to Cappucci, and that undiagnosed cardiac disease is the likely culprit.

During exercise, one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline production increases, straining the heart. Cappucci suggests that you take a few minutes to warm up to gradually increase your heart rate and help the body accommodate these changes.

If you are overweight or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or unhealthy cholesterol levels, visit your doctor regularly to help you manage these conditions and to watch for signs of cardiac disease, says Cappucci. Stress also can also produce high levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which are associated with increased cardiac risk.

"Use your critical skills,” he warns. “Two seconds of stabbing pain on the right side of your chest may not be an issue, but if you notice intense pain in your chest that radiates in your left arm when you walk up a hill, that is of concern. Cappucci says often people will experience warning signs prior to a cardiac event, and these signs should not be ignored.

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