Sam Standerwick, 25, was a fit guy who exercised almost every day and followed an extremely healthy diet. But last December, after a night out with his friends in Liverpool, United Kingdom, he was found dead in a hotel room. The culprit: a 70 percent blockage in his coronary artery, according to the coroner’s report.
According to cardiologist Justin Trivax, M.D., medical director of the Cardiovascular Performance Clinic at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, it’s possible to take things too far when it comes to fitness.
Take weightlifting, for example. Dr. Trivax told Men’s Health earlier this year that straining and using a breathing technique called the Valsalva maneuver to hoist the heaviest load possible can create extreme spikes in blood pressure that, in people with an underlying weakness, can be a trigger.
He also said that taking certain performance-enhancing, energy-boosting supplements can also have some serious consequences. One reason is that they could contain banned substances, like steroids or hormones, or even prescription drugs that may be a risk to your heart health. Many supplements—most marketed to boost weight loss, sports performance, or sexual health—have remained available months after they were officially pulled from the shelves for heart-attack risk or other safety concerns.
Family history is another potential cause of heart disease, and Standerwick’s three siblings have all been screened for potential heart conditions.
To make sure everyone is armed with the information they need, Standerwick and his wife started an organization called Cardiac Risk in the Young to reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death.
As we’ve reported in the past, there are a few other surprising reasons your heart could fail that don’t have to do with poor diet or lack of exercise. (But these things are still important, and if you don’t currently have a fitness routine, our Metashred Extreme workouts from Men’s Health will help you get and stay in shape.)
Symptoms to look out for include heart palpitations, dizziness and lightheadedness, blackouts, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, upper body pains, and cold sweats. It’s important to not ignore these warning signs if you have them. If any persist, see your doctor as soon as possible.