Olympic Gold medallist Rebecca Romero has thrown her support behind heart screening to combat cardiovascular disease.
The 32-year-old – the first British athlete to win Olympic medals in two different sports, and only the second ever woman – was joined by celebrity trainer Greg Whyte at Manchester Central Hospital in a race on a gruelling static Wattbike, endorsed by British Cycling, against Dr Joseph Mills – a Consultant Cardiologist.
Romero, who is currently studying for an MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition at the University of Chester, was at the 90th British Cardiovascular Society Conference on Tuesday May 29 to take part in a ‘cyclathon’ – showing different an elite athlete’s heart is in comparison to a healthy middle-aged man.
She wants people to be aware of how important cardio screening can be to highlight the risks of suffering heart attacks like Bolton Wanderers midfield Fabrice Muamba.
She said: “Cardiac screening as an athlete is very important, you must be aware of occasions when not just athletes are affected but everyday people as well.
“Anything that can show enlightenment to the strength and fitness of an ordinary person on a physical level also shows how a healthy body can have an effect on your whole life’s longevity.”
She hopes that London 2012 will show young people that sports in the Olympics offer an alternative to football as well as offering excellent fitness and recreation opportunities.
She added: “All we ever have is football and rugby and actually Olympic sports which are your everyday recreational activities that people can take part in.”
Whyte – a former international modern pentathlete – trained comedian David Walliams in his cycling challenge for Comic Relief and earlier this year helped John Bishop get through his ‘Week of Hell’ for Sport Relief.
After presenting the race between Romero and Dr Mills, he also took part in the cyclathon hosted by heart screening charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), and also wants people to see that the population is healthy and have lots of potential.
He said: “Cardiovascular disease is always a negative issue and I think that what you have to try and do is make it positive. For me it’s about screening for health, it’s about providing reassurance and it’s about education.
“We’ve worked our socks off there demonstrating that actually the vast majority of the population are quite healthy and they can do this sort of stuff so it’s a really positive energy.”
Since 2007, CRY has screened elite athletes for the London Olympic Games with leading Government body, UK Sport. But increased awareness of screening is not targeted just at athletes but on a grass root level as well.
The charity also carries out screening at schools and is donating any money raised to myheart network, which offers help, support and information to young people who are coping with the diagnosis of a heart condition.
CRY were proud to be at the conference and were eager to encourage doctors to compete in a five minute slot on the static Wattbike to increase awareness.
Dr Steve Cox, Director of Screening for CRY, was happy that the BCS Conference gave different groups of people chance to help raise awareness.
He said: “Since the collapse of Fabrice Muamba there has been a very high demand. Most of our screening events fill up straight away as soon as they go live.
“This is a fantastic conference for raising awareness with people in the world of cardiology and sports where we’re the leaders in the field on an international basis.”
“It’s a forum where young people can get together and not find themselves in a clinic where the average age of the person is 70 or 80.”
With the Olympics just months away, there was a focus on fitness at the BCS Conference, and how it is key in showing just how healthy the average British person is.
With approximately 12 apparently fit and healthy young people dying of undiagnosed heart conditions every week, CRY also offer bereavement support services and counselling to affected families.
However, Professor Whyte believes it is uncommon in young people as conditions are often hereditary, but stresses the importance of recognising symptoms, such irregular heart rhythms, faintness or being increasingly out of breath.
Professor Whyte, who has a new health programme on BBC One ‘How to Beat Pain’, feels the media focus on health awareness in the countdown to the Olympics could not be greater.
He said: “I think that this public engagement message really is where the important work goes because it is that which raises awareness and that which makes the difference.”
With athletes coming to Manchester to take part in cardio training and health awareness the conference proved to be a great success for Cry and heart screening in different areas.
For more information on support with cardiac conditions go to c-r-y.org.uk.