Heart attacks are generally connected to people who lead an unhealthy life - no exercise, lots of fast food, no proper sleep cycle among others. However, this is not the case always. Elite sportspersons, too, suffer heart attacks - on and off-field - and some of them are so deadly that they lose their life.
In recent days, the sports community lost celebrated Indian cricketer Yashpal Sharma due to cardiac arrest at the age of 66. In the last few months, there have been cases of sportspersons getting heart attacks. Christian Eriksen, Sourav Ganguly, Kapil Dev.
While Ganguly and Kapil Dev were admitted to hospital and recovered swiftly, images of a collapsed Eriksen during a Euro 2020 match had scared the football fans worldwide. Eriksen was given life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the field before being taken to the hospital.
These few events have raised a query - what led to the cardiac arrest? According to Dr G Ramesh, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Yashoda Hospitals, sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest in athletes occur for two main reasons.
"Young adults with an arrhythmic substrate or predisposition to having abnormal heart rhythms due to genetic make-up, as happened recently with an international footballer," India Today quoted Dr Ramesh as saying.
According to experts, diagnostic tests include an ECG echo and stress test, but many cases may be missed. However, Dr Ramesh said that the reason why Yashpal was killed was different.
"The other cases are recent examples of our cricketers who have suffered a heart attack that was either treated in time, as with Sourav Ganguly or Kapil Dev, or proved fatal, as with Yashpal Sharma. The cause in these cases is a sudden plaque rupture in the coronary arteries, resulting in artery blockage and, in some cases, sudden cardiac death,” said Dr Ramesh.
In case the attacks include younger adults, the treatment will be the insertion of an implantable cardiac defibrillator. According to a BBC report, after Eriksen's cardiac arrest, "sales of defibrillators have increased sharply."
Defibrillators are devices that send an electric pulse or shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. As per experts, having quick access to CPR and a defibrillator can increase a person's chances of survival by nearly 90%.
Dr Ramesh, pointing out the difference in cases between Yashpal, Ganguly, Kapil, said that there could be "plaque rupture that generally happens in arteries with cholesterol deposition.”
Among the causes of cholesterol, deposition are a family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, among others.
"A balanced lifestyle with regular health check-ups, including an ECG echo and stress test, would be the best way to prevent cholesterol deposition,” he said.
Experts also said that many athletes engage in excessive exertion at times, which is not recommended. However, everyone, including athletes, must undergo regular cardiac tests in order to detect any vulnerabilities.