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You see, the trouble with Math and Computer Programming in general is this: You won’t stop until you get the right answer. I don’t know how many could carry the discipline of stopping everything just so you can exercise or contemplate or prepare the best meals. Really. It’s like  having sex  and in the middle  of it, you stop because you are scheduled to do something else. I don’t know who got the skill and self control and an understanding spouse  that  can pull that.

 

So the best thing I can come up with is to make the most of it while I  can. I just ran 5 miles earlier today after nearly 2 weeks of non-running (even in those weeks I was running, my runs were very intermittent) and boy was this run painful. The good thing about old runner legs is they easily warm up. After a few minutes of painful strides, my legs soon got into groove and I was running normal again.  There is the joy of doing the run afterwards: my steps were more bouncy and I thought the color of the world was more dramatic.

 

But here is the caveat in running that I need to talk about. This stems from a recent 85 year old patient I had in Rehab who handed me a news item mentioning how running can cause more health problems than prolonging life. This patient had a stroke despite running miles and miles throughout his life. He was shocked it happened. The article was cut out from a news daily in Kansas City describing an MD who was  in very good health,  who was running everyday for half marathons and marathons. When he had his heart checked, he was found to be at risk of heart failure multiple  times more  than non-runners.

 

Anyway, I am directly quoting some parts of the Kansas Star Report:

 

["Years of extreme exercise efforts appear to erase some benefits you get from moderate exercise, so that your risk of heart disease, of dying of coronary disease, is the same as a sedentary person," said James O'Keefe, preventive cardiologist at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

 

O'Keefe said the study found that men who were marathon runners for 25 years had 62 percent more plaque buildup in their coronary arteries than men who were sedentary but were similar to the runners in other respects, including age.]

 

As an anecdotal evidence, here is an additional quote from the same source:

 

["I started running in 1967, and those were the days when the police would stop you and ask you what you were running from," said Hagan, who wrote a personal article to accompany the plaque study.

 

A lifelong dedicated runner, Hagan participated in more than 25 half marathons, four marathons and two half Ironman Triathlons. He typically ran 30 to 40 miles a week.

So he was surprised when at age 61 he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm problem. After learning more about runners with heart problems, he finally decided to get a heart scan for his coronary artery calcium score, an indicator of heart artery plaque.

He still felt confident that his running had provided protection. A calcium score of 100 or less is considered mild calcification, and 400 is considered extensive. His score was 1,606.]

 

These are frightening data coming out of health studies and personal anecdotes. I have heard of long distance runners who developed hypertension, atrial fibrillation (most common), heart attacks. You always hear of 1 or 2 runners in the news who collapse due to heart attacks during races. I think I have mentioned in my previous articles about Alberto Salazar (winner of Boston Marathon more than once) who nearly died multiple times due to multiple heart attacks, and White Horse (Caballero Blanco) known in hard core running circles as a god of running found dead on a road side due to heart attack.  These are facts  we should not ignore.

 

The only problem here is that running is a big business and I am afraid these studies are kept hidden?  because it will challenge the revenue generation of these businesses. There must be more studies done on runners to see what  really is the score here.

 

Meanwhile, these limited studies offer some measure of protection through some of their findings. For one, intense running should be avoided after 50. It is found that 15-20 miles a week offers the best heart benefit and anything more than that may not be beneficial anymore. It is important to have regular heart check ups (heart scans if possible) to make sure of heart health especially when dealing with strenuous activities.

 

Mainly, the fact that moderation in everything is always the best way to live, including exercise, still stands.

 

This begs the question, what is moderation?

 

[to be addressed next]