Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It Probably Won’t Make Your Heart Stop

I want you to rest easy because a study in the New England Journal of Medicine has just determined that “marathoners have a low risk of heart stoppages.” No shit. I could have told you that without doing a long study on it. I mean, look at how rarely someone drops dead on a marathon course. Basically, your odds are 259,000 to 1. I’ll take it compared to the risk of dying from laying on the couch eating potato chips and drinking Milwaukee’s Best like this crazy cat (although that sounds fun).

This pussy needs a life

It seems that most cardiac arrests on the course are due to clogged arteries or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a mostly inherited condition in which a thick heart muscle interferes with pumping. (I am tempted to say TWSS about the thick muscle and pumping stuff, but that might be tasteless). Most people who die this way had no clue about their condition beforehand.

What does this tell us?

  • Dying from cardiac problems while running a marathon is more likely than winning the lottery (120,000 million to 1), getting struck by lightening (2.6 million to 1) or dying from a flesh eating bacteria (1 million to 1).
  • Dying from cardiac problems while running a marathon is less likely than dying from a snake bite or bee sting (100,000 to 1). {source}
  • If you are putting off running a marathon or running at all because you think you will have a cardiac arrest, your excuse is now crap based on the research.
  • Ask your doctor if your arteries are clogged or if your heart muscle is thick before you pass GO or collect $200.
  • In the words of Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, president of the American Heart Association, states “running a marathon, if you are so inclined is a reasonably safe proposition.”

Now it’s your turn. When you boil it all down taking into account injuries and other health risks, are marathons good for you or too risky for the body?

Here’s my take if anyone cares – training and running marathons is a lifestyle. It encourages activity, getting outside, healthful eating, connecting with fellow runners and relieving stress. Any activity you do will have inherent risks, even playing golf or solitaire (c’mon work with me). In my mind, the benefits far, far outweigh the risks.

SUAR

44 comments:

  1. I couldn't have put it into better words myself.

    People tell me that I am going to end up with bad knees from running.. and even if that is true. I'd rather have bad knees than be fat and unhealthy.

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  2. I am trying to make this the year this happens. Eating better, exercising 5 days a week... But for some reason I am scared to start running again. Isn't that ridiculous? Is it because I know I will be slow again? I don't know.

    But my work out schedule next week includes a 30 minute run. Wish me luck.

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  3. Now I'm afraid to play solitaire:) The benefits of running a marathon by far outweigh the risks in my opinion. I've only done a full marathon once and I didn't die. Yay!

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  4. I'm about to run a marathon while 4 months pregnant (signed up before I knew). I feel totally safe since I've been running for a while and this is my 4th marathon so I know exactly how my body reacts. Also, I plan on chillax'n my way through the entire thing. I might even stop for a snack. This will be the funnest marathon yet!

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  5. Well my thoughts are this; I like you would rather be active, and be able to keep up with my kids. I choose to be outside and enjoying Gods land and taking everything in, I'll take my chances and run.

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  6. I completely agree! Did you read the Runners World article on the subject?

    Running now defines my life...it is what makes me happy. It is me.

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  7. The benefits soooo out weigh the risk.....@45, the mother of 5 kids (including twins)running enables me to wear a bikini to the beach and still look better than today's "muffin top" teenagers.... 'nuff said

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  8. I read that study with great interest given my heart condition. (Long QT, if anyone is wondering.) I know what my risks are, and I choose to go running anyway. My run today sucked big floppy, but that is okay. Tomorrow will be better, and when it is good it makes me happier than sitting around wondering.

    I agree with going to the doctor to check on these things, since there could be a silent problem. But frankly, I have more cardiac symptoms while sleeping than I do while running. Yet I sleep every day. Hmmmmmmm...

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  9. In 2007 I decided to get back into running. I have a heart condition and issues with my white blood cells, so I talked to my doctor and got a complete physical. Told him I wanted to run Goofy's challenge (Jan '08). Tests came back fine- he gave his ok, with the stipulation I see him right after the races. Came home Sunday after running the marathon in the morning, and saw the doctor the next day.

    I am aware of the risks, but I do my best to listen to my body.

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  10. Uggg these studies! I have been in hell these past few weeks not being able to elevate my heart rate until I find out if I have some inherited condition. Luckily I'll know on the 2nd if I need treatment or meds or whatever so I can get back to running. Sure it has a risk and sure I may have been doing something risky for 5 years without knowing it, but you're right it's not just something to do, it's a lifestyle. A lifestyle I cherish and miss. To each their own, but give me back my trails.

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  11. Whew...because I just read this:

    http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/01/25/cardio-may-damage-heart.aspx?e_cid=20120125_DNL_art_1

    and it freaked me out.

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  12. Running makes me feel more balanced. Sane. Without it who knows what would happen?? Is a homicidal maniac better than running??

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  13. Life is a terminal illness so either way you are going to lose the battle. You be strategic in battle by being healthy and productive, or you can be passive by taking endless pills to fix what running fixes for you for free and waiting until the doctor gives you the diagnosis you've been waiting for. Life is too short to sit on your ass all day watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Which isn't to say life is too short to do that every once in a while.

    Also, I want a tiny beer like that cat is drinking. It is the perfect size for an appetizer beer.

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  14. run on, suar! now, if someone can do a study that says vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms ARE dangerous for your health, i will be very happy.

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  15. I used to hate running because I had just bad knees and ankles. Amazingly, I've had less problems with my joints NOW, after a year and a half of running, than I did in high school years ago when I avoided running unless I was being chased.

    Excuse shattered and now I'm in love with running. :)

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  16. Two runners dies of heart failure during the Philly Marathon. How many fat, lazy couch potatoes dies of heart failure in Philly that day? Anyone comment about that (I don't know the answer...wish I did)? I'm sure it was more than 2.

    Is it worth it? Hell yeah! It's better than sitting on a couch, munching chips (um, yeah, I'm doing that right now, but did just run a few), getting fatter and more unhealthy by the minute.

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  17. Good for you! I know some people dive in too soon and get injured, but they STARTED EXERCISING and in this culture that's huge!

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  18. Running a marathon did even more for me mentally/emotionally than it did physically, which is saying something. You can have a heart attack sitting on your couch; I choose living my life.

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  19. Golfing with me is just plain dangerous anyway and I've totally gotten a paper cut from a deck of cards playing solitaire. Very scary. I haven't tried a full marathon yet and my first half is in a month. We'll see how that goes before considering a full.

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  20. I just ran my first marathon Sunday before last. Looking back, the training and dedication and work for it were some of the most rewarding days of my life. And, that moment when I crossed the finish line was the proudest and best day of my life (no, I don't have kids). I've graduated law school, passed two bar exams, and still, it was the proudest day of my life. I feel bad for people who will find an excuse not to do it because the feeling and the reward and the moment are incredible. As soon as I'm recovered, I'm training again because you are right, it is a lifestyle. Running has changed my life mentally and physically and given me something that no job and no relationship ever has. And....I didn't die! I feel sad for those who want to find an excuse not to get up off the couch and get going.

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  21. I may be next...
    in 2010 I ran 6 half marathons. In three of them somebody died on the course or at the finish line.
    For a while I belived my odds of finishing a half alive was 50/50.

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  22. I may be next...
    in 2010 I ran 6 half marathons. In three of them somebody died on the course or at the finish line.
    For a while I belived my odds of finishing a half alive was 50/50.

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  23. Sadly if my niece had even trained for a marathon she would have died sooner than she did. She had ARVD, any elevation in heart rate would have done it. BUT this is an extremely rare genetic condition. My friends want me to get tested, honestly I don't want to know, I just bought a treadmill for gawd sakes.

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  24. You have to take risks in life if you really want to live. If you're afraid you'll get hurt or die doing something that you really want to do, well...you could easily get hurt or die leaving your house in the car any given day. Check with a Doc. the just do it.
    On another note, I ran Philadelphia this past November and 2 men died short of the finish line due to heart attack. One a 20 year old college kid and the other a 40 something lawyer from Albany. You just never know.

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  25. I was really hoping this post would be something about how extremely tired marathon trainees can do illegal drugs to stay awake and not have to worry about their heart stopping but alas... that would be way too irresponsible... right?

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  26. Rationality sometimes plays no part when someone hears a risk and they're just looking for an excuse. YOU don't believe in excuses - and that's good. I find any excuse I can - and that's bad. Right now there is something strange holding me back from registering for a half (it would be my first long race). It's called "fear". And I don't like it. For the record, it isn't fear of my heart stopping. I'm actually not sure what I'm afraid of but I am most definitely skerred of somethin'. {SIGH}.

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  27. Of course, it's good for your heart. It's even better for your head. And your soul.

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  28. I love your spin on this! Definitely more beneficial than risky. It drives me nuts when people claim they won't get off the couch b/c people die running marathons. I should print off this post!

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  29. What are my chances of dying from a bee sting while running a marathon?

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  30. DAMN STRAIGHT. Though, one of my trail running veterinary friends picked up a baby copperhead during a run, and was bitten when he put it down (a bit too gently). So ... :)

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  31. I have always had weird fainting spells since I was a teenager, and was told that I've had a heart murmur since I was young, (but no big deal). I am a runner and run marathons, but in the back of my mind, I'm always afraid that I will die young of some undiagnosed heart condition. Will a doctor just perform an Ecoupon request? How does everyone else “get tested?”
    Gawd is sucks to be clueless! Since heart disease is the #1 killer of women, and I have reached my 4th decade of living, (go me), I feel like I need to be proactive just to make sure all is well.

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  32. AMEN. I feel the same way about cycling - sure, there are risks, a car might smash your brains out, you might fall off, whatever - but the benefits WAY outweigh those risks. awesome post.

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  33. We vote "Good For You", period. Because it IS a lifestyle choice that pays off in every way imaginable.

    And as @ frazledmom5 said...

    We're well in our 40's, at the lake talking to a group of severely muffin-topped, early-20's, bikini-clad girls who looked at us and said, "We hope we're in as good a shape and look like you guys when we get to be your age."

    Vanessa and I just looked at each other. They don't get it. It's so easy at their age, and yet they don't take advantage of their youth.

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  34. A whole lot more risk involved in staying on the couch gaining weight and never getting out there to be active, I'd say. My first full marathon is in June, but I've done 8 half marathons since last June and my heart is doing just fine. I've lost about 100 pounds since I started running; that should improve my odds just a bit. :D

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  35. As someone who lives with tachycardia, I can honestly say that running has made my heart stronger. My dad is always asking when am I going to stop running because he thinks it is bad for my heart. I just laugh at him. :-)

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  36. being overweight will do more damage to your knees and joints than running... Might as well get the endorphin rush from running...

    beer is not your friend (hangovers) and chips just suck.... we all know that cat is one minute away from licking himself and then yaking on some carpet from all the fur, chips and beer

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  37. Believe me: My family, friends, co-workers, students, pets, waiters, complete strangers, DMV employees have a higher and healthier quality of life because I run marathons. Before running, I was a walking heart attack inducer--more dangerous than a year's supply of Big Macs. See? I'm keeping others from having heart attacks by running :)

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  38. You know my opinion but I'm more interested in how the cat changes channels with his paws. With no opposable thumb it can't be that easy.

    Also, what does the cat watch? Animal Planet all day?

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  39. Great, now I feel like a HAVE to get rid of my Old Milwaukee. :)

    Really, I loved this post! Well said!

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  40. Could have said it any better! Amen!!!

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  41. Love the passion for running and for life! I used to hate running but I realized I hated the thought of a slow death even more. Funny how that can change one's perspective on health and fitness. Thanks for sharing!

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