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Heart Hazard: Intense Running Linked to Health Risks for Those Over 40

Daniel Kim Views  

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A recent study has shown that while running typically improves cardiovascular endurance and overall health, intense running can be harmful to the heart for middle-aged individuals.

On June 13th, a team led by Dr. Park Kyung Min from the Cardiovascular Department at Samsung Medical Center and Professor Kim Young Joo from the Department of Sports Rehabilitation and Welfare at Sungshin Women’s University warned that excessive running among individuals aged 40 to 60 can easily lead to exercise-induced hypertension, a cause of sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Exercise-induced hypertension refers to a condition where blood pressure excessively rises during exercise, even if your blood pressure is usually normal. The criteria for diagnosing this condition include a systolic blood pressure of 210 mmHg for men and 190 mmHg for women. The research team analyzed previous studies and considered factors such as age, gender, and race. They found that the prevalence of exercise-induced hypertension was not particularly high across all age groups and races, ranging from 3 to 4%. However, when limited to middle-aged men, the rate surged to 40%, meaning 4 out of 10 individuals.

When narrowed down to middle-aged marathon runners, 56% fell into the category of exercise-induced hypertension. This indicates that a significant number of middle-aged men who run marathons are exposed to the risk of exercise-induced hypertension. Exercise-induced hypertension can accelerate atherosclerosis, which is a main cause of myocardial infarction. This leads to atrial enlargement, myocardial hypertrophy, and potentially fatal arrhythmias.

A study cited by the research team showed that while the prevalence of atherosclerosis in the same age group was 22.2%, it reached 44.3% among endurance athletes such as marathon runners. Another risk of exercise-induced hypertension is arrhythmia. While walking or moderate-intensity running can reduce the prevalence of cardiac arrhythmia in the general population, endurance athletes have a five-fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

Another study explained that performing high-intensity endurance exercises like marathons for more than 3 hours a week for over 10 years is associated with atrial fibrillation, a major cause of sudden death.

Based on these findings, the research team emphasized that it’s important to accurately understand one’s physical capability before engaging in marathons after the age of 40.

Park advised, “By systematically conducting exercise stress tests to measure your heart’s capacity and cardiac CT scans to understand your heart health, you can enjoy running for a long time and stay healthy. In general, adults are recommended to exercise at a moderate intensity of 40% to 80% of their maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) for 20 to 60 minutes a day, 3 to 5 times a week.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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