This month plenty of runners are contemplating not only resolutions but race calendars. Chances are there are some significant milestones on those upcoming lists, such as a half or full marathon, triathlon, trail run or other endurance events that will test the bodyís limits.
A huge goal in all of this annual planning is staying healthy. Not just staying within a specific weight range but keeping bones, muscles, skin and other organs in tip-top shape. The Washington Post recently produced a graphic showing what happens to the body during the aging process, and recommends ways to slow down processes—including walking, running and weight training.
But it appears running might have some unpleasant side effects on one extremely important organ, the heart. A new research study suggests that some long-distance runners are unintentionally hurting their heart—particularly marathoners. The New York Times last week highlighted the findings after noticing that more people were suffering serious, sometimes fatal heart attacks during marathons. What they discovered, according to the news report, was that heart conditions develop in some runners during intense exercise—and these people never know it.
The scientists studied 60 runners in the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon. Each had their hearts tested for abnormalities or other cardiac problems, in particular the presence of a protein called troponin that shows up in blood if the heart is traumatized.
“The runners (41 men, 19 women) had normal cardiac function before the marathon, with no signs of troponin in their blood. Twenty minutes after finishing, 60 percent of the group had elevated troponin levels, and 40 percent had levels high enough to indicate the destruction of heart muscle cells,” according to the article. “Most also had noticeable changes in heart rhythms. Those who had run less than 35 miles a week leading up to the race had the highest troponin levels and the most pronounced changes in heart rhythm.”
None of the runners had noticed anything out of the ordinary, such as chest pains or shortness of breath. “Within days, the abnormalities disappeared. But something seemed to have happened in the race. Their hearts appeared to have been stunned,” according to the lead doctor in the study.
Another cardiologist said the findings shouldn’t deter people from pursuing running goals, including marathons. But, Dr. Frederick Lough suggested, “You have to respect that distance. It’s not something everyone necessarily should attempt.”