THE RUN­NER’S HEART

Runner's World (UK) - - Special Report -

That would change if we could work out, in ad­vance, who is among the 0.1 per cent with a vul­ner­a­ble heart. We know that rare heart con­di­tions are as­so­ci­ated with cer­tain ge­netic de­fects, and those with the de­fect are more likely to de­velop the dis­ease if they ex­er­cise a lot. The same may turn out to be true for fi­bro­sis and atrial fib­ril­la­tion: ex­er­cise raises your risk, but only if you al­ready have a ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion. ‘ This is a po­ten­tial game- changer,’ says Thomp­son of the fu­ture prospects of ge­netic test­ing. That doesn’t mean peo­ple with the wrong genes can’t run, but they’ll un­der­stand the risks and per­haps run 10Ks rather than 100-mil­ers.

By the end of the con­fer­ence, I’m feel­ing good about my run­ning. With two young kids, I’m lucky to log 30 miles in a week and my rac­ing is lim­ited to 5Ks and 10Ks. But I dream of moun­tain ul­tras. This de­bate re­minds me not to as­sume I’m in­vin­ci­ble – to be aware that my ar­ter­ies could get clogged or my heart could go hay­wire. Whether or not run­ning raises or low­ers the risk, be­ing aware will help me watch for warn­ing signs.

For now, even Lavie is loathe to dis­cour­age any­one from run­ning. ‘ I don’t think the data is nearly enough to say, “Stop at 30 miles per week,”’ he told me af­ter his talk. He wants peo­ple to un­der­stand that run­ning’s health ben­e­fits can come from as lit­tle as five or 10 min­utes a day, that you don’t need to be a marathoner to be healthy, and that push­ing to ex­tremes may even whit­tle away some of those ben­e­fits. If you’re older and have other risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease, he might sug­gest an ex­er­cise stress test and coro­nary artery cal­cium test­ing, or statins to lower choles­terol. ‘ If some­one is run­ning 40 miles per week, I ask what their pur­pose is,’ he says. ‘If they love it, I’m not go­ing to try to scare them.’

I’m sur­prised. Hav­ing read the scary head­lines, I’d ex­pected to meet an anti-run­ning cru­sader. But that’s not Lavie. He runs for 45 min­utes on most days, log­ging over 30 miles a week. And once he’s out on the roads, he’s no longer think­ing about his heart. ‘ I feel bet­ter. I’m able to eat more,’ he says. ‘But mostly, I en­joy it.’

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