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Cardiol Clin. 1996 May;14(2):263-70.

Physical exertion as a trigger of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death.

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Institute for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Deaconess Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The data reviewed in this article indicate that physical exertion can trigger the onset of nonfatal myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death. In addition, it is clear that although the relative risk associated with heavy exertion may be high, the absolute risk is actually quite small. It also is clear that regular exercise reduces the risk of triggering of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death by isolated bouts of exertion. Thus, these data provide further support for encouragement of regular exercise, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Such a program is likely to lower the overall risk of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death because it may lower the baseline risk and also decrease the relative risk that an episode of exertion will trigger a myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death. Specific recommendations for patients with a history of myocardial infarction or angina are complex. Patients with coronary artery disease have the same relative risk of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death as those with no such history. Because of their elevated and variable baseline risk, however, specific recommendations regarding the risks and benefits of heavy physical exertion must be provided by their individual physicians, acting on recommended guidelines for exercise in such patients.

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