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Some heart patients ride roller coasters and other thrill-seeking activities despite warnings

November 05, 2018

DALLAS, Nov. 5, 2018 -- Adults with an inherited thickening of the heart muscle, often don't stop participating in thrill-seeking activities despite recommendations that they should. And while some experienced minor consequences, only a few suffered serious health effects as a result, according to preliminary research from an online survey to be presented in Chicago at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, characterized by enlarged heart walls, is one of the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people. Doctors often recommend that people with the condition don't participate in activities like roller coaster riding, jet skiing and more because stimulation to the heart might be too dangerous.

A Yale study examined the safety of thrill-seeking activities among adults diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Researchers examined anonymous online survey responses from 633 adults (average age 51) who were at high-risk for irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). Some had implantable defibrillators and 24.4 percent reported daily symptoms.

Respondents were asked about their participation in roller coaster riding, jet skiing, rafting, bungee jumping, rappelling, paragliding, kayaking/canoeing, motor racing, snowboarding, BASE jumping (including parachuting or wingsuit flying from a cliff) and skydiving, as well as symptoms that occurred because of the thrill-seeking activities.

Researchers found:
  • 331 respondents said they continued to engage in thrill-seeking activities after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

  • Responders engaged in nearly 8,000 total thrill-seeking activities. Nearly 190 people, or about a third, experienced minor symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, chest pain or palpitations.

  • Nine people reported significant events during or within 60 minutes of participating in a thrill-seeking event, such as passing out or requiring therapy to shock the heart. In four of those cases, the events occurred during roller coaster riding.
"Caregiver advice on activity restrictions is important for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients, especially younger ones, who wish to enjoy a lifestyle as close to their peers as safely possible," said Nikolaos Papoutsidakis M.D., Ph.D., study author and associate research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. "These results may aid discussions between physicians and patients regarding the safety of participation in thrill-seeking activities."
-end-
Note: Scientific presentation is 2 p.m. CT, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

Nikolaos Papoutsidakis, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

Additional Resources:Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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