Do athletes who burn all of the calories they eat need to be mindful of the types of foods they eat? Can they still be at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease even with all of the exercise they get?
Athletes absolutely need to be mindful of the foods they eat. To begin with, an optimal diet allows optimal performance. A high fat diet promotes atherosclerosis and other conditions with increased risk for an adverse cardiac event during exercise. When you eat high-fat foods, it affects your arterial health immediately, leaving arteries rigid and unhealthful for hours.
It is also important to consider that aging of the arteries begins at birth. Many people don’t begin exercise for health until mid-life when damage has already begun. Starting an exercise program will improve heart health, however, existing damage from previous years of poor diet and/or no exercise still puts people at risk. The earlier you start an exercise program, the less heart damage accumulates.
Consider the story of Jim Fixx, author of the Complete Book of Running, who died of a heart attack at the age of 52 after his daily run. Fixx was determined to have had a genetic predisposition for heart disease. In addition, prior to taking up running in his 30s, Fixx was a smoker and overweight. While running and quitting smoking brought him into good physical and emotional health, his heart health was still at risk.
It is important for everyone to be mindful of their heart health with proper diet, exercise and regular checkups to monitor for changes in heart function.