A newly discovered feature of athlete's hearts that increases the risk of “sudden cardiac death” has been found to be more common in black men who participate in sports.
According to a new study presented at the World Congress of Cardiology, the condition – known as left-ventricular hyper-trabeculation (LVHT), is a common feature in chronic diseases of the heart muscle – occurs more frequently in black male athletes than men of other races.
The finding, by researchers from St. Georges University of London, could help doctors identify athletes most at risk of the terrifying condition.
For the study, researchers tracked the heart health of 692 British athletes between 2006 and 2011, using ECGs and echocardiography. They found LVHT was more prevalent in athletes than non-athletes (6.8 percent compared with 0.4 percent) and in Afro-Caribbean athletes than other races (13.2 percent vs. 4 percent).
Researchers noted LVHT has not previously been recognized as a feature of "athlete's heart," but is a well-known feature of chronic diseases of the heart muscle -- also called cardiomyopathy -- which is the most common cause of exercise-related sudden cardiac death in athletes.
"Given that LVHT is a feature of sudden cardiac death, its prevalence among athletes creates greater challenges for doctors trying to differentiate between athlete's heart and a serious medical condition, particularly in black male athletes where the prevalence is much higher," said Dr. Navin Chandra, of St. Georges University of London.