Take it slow and steady, say experts


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 04 Jul 2020

Haste makes waste: Doctors have also warned against attacking a steep hill on foot or by bicycle after a sedentary period.

GEORGE TOWN: The sudden death of four people within three weeks has led health experts to issue Malaysians with a warning against pushing their body too far and too soon after a break.

As more people head for the hills and mountains to enjoy nature and have some fun after the three-month movement control order (MCO), the four died of cardiac arrest while exercising.

Consultant anaesthesiologist Datuk Dr Luah Lean Wah noted that these cases happened after public parks reopened on June 6.

“It is sad to see people lose their lives in such a manner. The public should learn to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the usage of automated external defibrillators. This can help change the outcome, ” said the president of Penang Heart Safe Society.

It was reported that a 49-year-old man was pronounced dead at the Penang Hospital on June 8 from cardiac arrest while another man suffered a similar fate while hiking at the Penang City Park.

An elderly man also died after he collapsed while trekking up to the Cherok Tokun Hill in Bukit Mertajam on June 20. Last Friday, a 56-year-old man collapsed while working out at the Ayer Itam dam.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Barakath Badusha Abdul Kareem said the MCO had caused an increase in stress levels.

“For the last three months, some people experienced higher levels of stress over loss of income and work instability.

“When people are worked up they will put more stress on their heart and risk cardiac arrest. This risk is much higher among people with heart problems, ” he said.

Dr Barakath said: “Exercise helps in reducing stress levels, but people should go slow after a restart.”

“My advice is to start slow because the heart would have been de-conditioned during the MCO period. Strongly recommended cardiac exercises are brisk walking, cycling and swimming.

“Whatever exercise we choose, start gradually. Slow and steady is the safest approach, ” he said.

As for the cases of unexplained cardiac arrest, Dr Barakath hoped those patients would be screened for Covid-19.

“Cardiac involvement in Covid-19 infection is common. If the screening turns out to be negative, then other inherited, congenital or acquired heart conditions should be considered, ” he said.

G Club Penang Cyclists chairman Datuk Dr Lim Seh Guan advised the public to warm up first before embarking on any strenuous exercises, especially cycling or hiking.

“If you are above 50, your body is not as fit as before, and it may be worsened if you are suffering from diabetes or hypertension which are common in this age group.

“The heart vessels may be narrowed and easily blocked, and if you push yourself too much, you may get a heart attack, ” he said.

Dr Lim also warned cycling enthusiasts of the danger when attacking a steep hill.

“Several trails in Penang like at the Air Itam dam, Sungai Ara and Penang Hill are very steep. If we start to ride without warming up, our heart rate will immediately spike from a resting rate of about 60 or 70 to the dangerous rate of 150 beats per minute in five minutes.

“Most cyclists or hikers will push on even though they know their heart is under severe stress because the moment you stop, you lose the momentum. In cycling, you will not be able to remount to climb again if you stop mid-slope.

“This is probably why there’s a higher number of heart attack cases recently, and most of them on hills.

“If a person is running on flat ground, you can see a gradual increase in their heart rate and it is more, or less maintained at a controlled rate and does not swing wildly.

“This is because on a flat ground, when we feel stressed or breathless, we can slow down and let the heart recover, ” he said.

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