Athlete's Heart

Mark Fields, a physician-athlete, demonstrates a hypertrophied heart from a genuine athlete. This was actually a transplanted heart from a recipient who for years had been a cardiac cripple. Upon receiving the heart, the recipient became an aerobic fitness buff and a superior basketball player. He survived for three additional years.

"Athlete's heart" is actually just the desirable, physiologic hypertrophy of the muscle that's part of the getting-in-shape process. There are only a few uncommon diseases in which this is undesirable.

By contrast, the hypertrophy of the failing heart of disease is not altogether helpful. Don't confuse the big heart of an athlete with the big heart of someone with high blood pressure. Exercise is usually good for you; high blood pressure isn't.

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