Dear Dr. Roach: A large number of sports injuries are reported every day, for men and women and for every sport that comes to mind. Body building is a focus of most, if not all, athletes in sports from golf to baseball, etc. The injury rate seems to be getting higher, or maybe there is more in-depth reporting. In any event, how does taking weight training “to the limit” affect the risk or odds of an injury? Also, is there a practical limit for a given athlete, and how is it determined? — R.D.L.
Answer: Strength-building exercise using resistance, usually through weights, has many benefits to the body, including benefits that are difficult or impossible to attain through aerobic activity that does not involve resistance, which is why essentially elite athletes incorporate weight training.
The risk of injury in resistance training is low, on the order of one per 1,000 hours of training at the Olympic level. This is far lower than in contact sports.
For nonelite athletes, the biggest risk is probably trying to lift too much, too soon. I strongly recommend getting a professional coach to help you with proper form and advice on the types and amounts of lifting. This will help to minimize injury risk.
Any athlete will develop a plateau in performance over time, but it’s impossible to predict what that might be in an untrained person. Steadily increasing resistance will lead to greater strength, along with other medical benefits like improved bone strength and reduced insulin resistance.
Dear Dr. Roach: I love the taste of salt, but I know it is bad for me due to my high blood pressure, so I switched to a salt substitute containing potassium chloride. What are the pros and cons of switching? – H.Y.
Answer: A recent large trial showed that salt substitutes are a good idea for older adults at high cardiovascular risk. Those who were in the group who switched to a salt substitute had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than those who continued to use regular salt.
I have occasionally seen very high potassium levels in people who were using blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers. People on these medicines or potassium-sparing diuretics, such as triamterene or spironolactone, should check with their doctors before using a salt substitute and should get blood levels checked.