Anne at Complete Running has pointed out a recent study where running can cause heart issues in middle aged men. Is this something that you should worry about?

A 51-year-old physician failed a calcium screening used to measure hardened arteries despite having no coronary risk factors to explain the buildup. Researchers say it’s a first for them: the man seemed in perfect health with no history of heart disease. The culprit, they concluded after further study, was too much running.

They later determined that the man had some other problems that were contributors towards his issues, but the exercise certainly did not help his situation. The question that we need to consider, though, is whether running can have a negative impact on our health and can lead to a heart attack? It is not secret that Jim Fixx, who wrote the Complete Book of Running, died of a heart attack after a run. Had he continued his unhealthy lifestyle and never started running, though, he probably would not have lived for over a decade and a half more than his folks or grandparents.

Heart Attack by Lady AnnDerground

Photo by Lady AnnDerground
I have a minor heart issue, and heart disease runs in my family. It is possible that I will have some serious problems with my heart when I reach middle-age. My quality of life is so much better than it would be without my running, though, that I seriously doubt that I will ever worry about any detrimental effects that running can have on my health. The benefits far outweigh any imaginary or undiagnosed problems, and until those problems materialize I would not limit myself based on a “what if” type of scenario.

If you are new to running and exercising, then I recommend that you see your primary care physician before you start any serious training program. No matter what your age, having a little advice to get started and to make sure that you don’t over extend yourself and do too much too fast and too early can keep you from hurting yourself. Running is a great lifestyle choice, and some people are turned off by the negative experiences that they may have had earlier in life or by not starting responsibly.

Anybody with an existing heart condition should definately see their doctor. Even if regular exercise would help you improve your lifestyle, you will need to see how your current medications and your current heart strength will hold up. Just don’t use the possibility of a heart condition as an excuse; I personally won’t stop for anything short of a heart attack.