Artery problems for runners16th March 2010
People who run in marathons may risk acquiring many cardiovascular problems as they go through their training.
A recent Greek study showed that marathon runners tend to have high blood pressure and other heart complications due to the strain of preparing for marathons.
Study author Despina Kardara, a researcher from Athens Medical School, said that her team's research suggested exercise had an inverted U-shape relation with arterial stiffness.
She said this meant that people who did not exercise had the same risk of cardiovascular events as people who did too much exercise.
Many of the runners the researchers studied had stiffness in the aorta, which is the heart's major artery, and also higher blood pressure than their peers.
Kardara said that the cardiovascular system was like a sports car engine, and that people who ran it too fast for too long might burn it out.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers measured the hearts of runners who trained for marathons of up to 42 kilometres (about 26 miles).
Forty-nine runners took part in the study, in addition to 46 people who never did endurance athletics.
All of the runners trained for at least 10 hours a week, and some of them had trained for as long as 20 years.
They used an index called pulse wave velocity to categorise the data.
Marathon runners had measurements corresponding to rigid artery walls, which can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Kardara said that stiff arteries led to high blood pressure, as well as keeping the heart from performing properly.
Aortal stiffness can also be a sign of heart disease.
The researchers found that the condition of runners' aortas worsened the harder the runners trained.
Kardara said that regular long-term endurance training was generally beneficial for heart health, however, and urged endurance athletes to be cautious about the volume of their training programmes.
She said that athletes should always work in close collaboration with their doctors.
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