• Gary Moller

Sudden Cardiac Death among Older Athletes

Updated: Jul 21, 2019

A practical guide about how to avoid suddenly dying while exercising

My father, Gordon, in his early 70's, died suddenly during his regular Sunday morning walk/run. He was about 20 meters into climbing a steep path when it happened. He was dead before he hit the ground. Looking back on it now, this was a good way for him to go, but it was untimely. He should have had at least another 20 years if only he had done some things differently.

Sudden cardiac death during exercise is rare and it is hard to identify common factors across all ages but there are some commonalities with older athletes that point to ways we can possibly reduce the risks a little, if not by a lot.

Although this article concentrates on older athletes, it is still relevant for the young ones.

(When I was studying sports medicine at the Otago School of Medicine, one of my major topics was "The Risks of Sudden Death During Exercise")

An example of intense, brutal exercise at high altitude
Gary competing in the 2017 world champs at high altitude and in 34 degrees C heat; an extreme test of cardiovascular health and capacity.

The following guidelines apply to all intense sports and exercise, but especially to those that have the tendency to start with a BANG! and sometimes stop that way as well.

What does medical research have to say about sudden cardiac death during exercise?

If you are into reading the technical stuff, please read this academic review, " Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes" by Meagan M. Wasfy, M.D., Adolph M. Hutter, M.D., and Rory B. Weiner, M.D. :