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Extensive Workouts Lead to Electrolyte Imbalance Dangers

  • October 23, 2013
  • RPh on the Go

electrolyte imbalancePatients know that they should stay adequately hydrated during a training session or workout. However, the dangers of excessive exercise are often overlooked. Electrolyte imbalance is often thought of as a condition that will go away if a patient takes a rest day, and this can lead to severe complications, or in some cases death. Heavy training sessions such as those encountered in military training, cycling, or Cross-Fit can result in exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). Dehydration and rapid loss of fluids due to sweating can bring on EAH before a patient can recognize the symptoms. There are a variety of electrolyte tablets and products on the market today that are aimed toward balancing electrolytes during heavy activity periods. This can cause athletes to over-hydrate, which is a primary reason that EAH occurs. Patients will often drink more in preparation for an exerting workout, setting themselves up for EAH and its complications.

Many clinicians do not understand EAH, and can make dangerous and incorrect choices as to how to treat it. The over extension in physical activity trend is common due to the phenomenon of Cross-Fit and orthorexia sweeping the Western nations as a result of increased obesity awareness and an overall focus on fitness. Though fitness is a goal to strive for, orthorexia can become common in patients that quickly use working out to obtain the same sort of adrenaline rush that they used to from eating, gambling, or any other destructive activity. Cases of orthorexia are on the rise in young women and men as the media continues to bombard them with examples of an ideal that is nearly impossible to reach. It is estimated that EAH and rhabdomyolysis hospitalizations will continue to rise. Pharmacies and pharmacy professionals can do their part to encourage their patients to work out in a healthy manner, avoiding over-exertion, over-hydration, and educating patients on the signs of both EAH and rhabdomyolysis. Pharmacies can print literature to provide to patients that are recovering from EAH and rhabdomyolysis, and consider displaying the literature next to electrolyte tablets in their displays.

EAH is being debated in scientific studies, and one was recently conducted by the Wilderness Medical Society to determine the main factors in EAH diagnosis. Treatment plans are still under scrutiny from healthcare professionals, and any patient diagnosed with EAH should be provided accurate literature that will allow them to make informed decisions about their healthcare and treatment. Pharmacists should be aware of this trend, and a critique was posted regarding the findings of the Wilderness Medical Society by Grant S. Lipman, MD. The medical community remains at odds regarding EAH and its treatment, and pharmacists should make note of any further developments as more studies are concluded and subsequent research is published.

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