Heart rate and rhythm can readily be monitored during exercise. Although there is considerable variation depending on the athletic discipline, exercise can be considered to be one of the most physiologically demanding times for the cardiovascular system. Assessment of heart rate during exercise typically provides information regarding fitness and the intensity of exercise, and on some occasions may provide an early indication of disease. Cardiac causes of poor performance occur relatively infrequently in comparison with disorders of the musculoskeletal and respiratory systems. Nevertheless, exercise induces cardiac hypertrophy, which predisposes athletes to valvular regurgitation and arrhythmias. Consequently cardiac murmurs and arrhythmias are frequently present in equine athletes, whereupon the clinical significance can be difficult to determine. Undertaking an exercise test to identify exercise-induced arrhythmias is important in the assessment of poor athletic performance and the risk of sudden cardiac death during exercise. This paper describes the assessment of heart rate and rhythm during exercise. Most research has been undertaken on racehorses but, where data are available for other disciplines, they have been included. Considerations regarding the choice, type and design of exercise test were detailed in the first paper in this series.
- Heart rate