NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – From Demar Hamlin to most recently Bronny James, there’s now a spotlight on heart health among athletes.

Whether it’s the Arkansas Razorbacks or Arkansans hitting the biking and hiking trails, the Natural State is home to athletes of all types but there’s never been a program in the state strictly focused on treating heart problems in those who are active.

Baptist Health in North Little Rock now has a new Exercise and Sports Cardiology program dedicated to just that.

From breath tests to masked up and riding a stationary bike, those are a few of the activities patients will do at the new Exercise and Sports Cardiology Clinic at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock.

“When they encounter problems, they are looking for somewhere to go for answers,” Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock Cardiologist Dr. Jay Geoghagan said.

Dr. Geoghagan said this new program is for athletes of all kinds from high school, college, professional, recreational and what he calls masters athletes.

“Unfortunately, you only have to be 35 or older to be considered a masters athlete,” Dr. Geoghagan said. “That person who’s been athletic their whole life and now they have a decline in their performance, and everybody says, ‘oh you’re just getting older, oh you’ve gained a little bit of weight, oh it’s hormonal.'”

He said all of that can be true.

“Sometimes we still want to give them a better answer,” Dr. Geoghagan said.

Patients experiencing symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath or their heart racing will go through a clinical evaluation and then put through various tests.

“Is this a cardiac problem, is this a pulmonary problem or is it both,” Dr. Geoghagan said.

Once doctors figure out the issue, then comes what athletes can do going forward. Dr. Geoghagan said before, patients would get the typical answer of ‘take it slow’ or ‘limit it to moderate exercise’ which can be hard to gauge.

“What the heck is moderate intensity exercise?” Dr. Geoghagan said.

This program gives a tailored plan to each person.

“We get an idea of this is a place where your body is doing well, you’re in a good spot, your oxygen consumption is good everything is working you can exercise here safely for longer periods of time,” Dr. Geoghagan said.

The goal is to keep each athlete who walks in this clinic up and active.

“What they either can do better or what they may need to alter in order to keep doing what they love,” Dr. Geoghagan said.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of shortness of breath, heart-racing chest pains, or a decline in performance that just can’t be explained, you can call the Baptist Health Medical Center – North Little Rock Exercise and Sports Cardiology Clinic to get an evaluation.