UK HealthCare

How is an Olympian's Heart Different?

Dr. Vince Sorrell explains how Olympian's hearts differ from a typical heart

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 19, 2018) – It's common knowledge that exercise is good for our muscles. Regular workouts help tone the muscle we have and build more muscle on top of that.

But the heart is a muscle too. When you exercise, your heart "remodels" to accommodate the body's increased demand for more oxygen-rich blood to feed those muscles. 

But does this remodeling affect Olympic athletes differently?

Not exactly, says Dr. Vincent Sorrell at the University of Kentucky Gill Heart and Vascular Institute. "Anyone who exercises regularly will likely have some remodeling to their heart, which a layperson can see reflected in their resting heart rate," he says.  "But serious amateur and professional athletes – with Olympians being a prime example – have more extensive remodeling."

Curiously, exercise-induced changes to the heart vary according to the type of exercise. In this video, Dr. Sorrell explains what happens to the hearts of specific Olympians as they practice their sport.

This year, "Blue" will be going for the "Gold," too. We will take you on the journey with special athletes and those who support them and have insight into what makes the Olympics so special. Be sure to visit www.uky.edu/olympics and follow along on all of our social media channels by looking for #olympiCats.

 

Photo of a snowboarder
A snowboarder's heart changes to accommodate increased demand for oxygen-rich blood

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue