Archive for March, 2010

Is Running A Marathon Healthy?

March 26, 2010

I run leisurely… the most I have run is 5K and am happy to get the target below 30 minutes. I love the feeling of rush when you reach your goal target and I guess that’s what keeps marathoners going for more.  A lot of my friends are convincing me to run a marathon…I doubt if Ill ever do that.  A 42 K marathon…running for that long will probably take me 6 hours…hehe.  Anyway, the question that has always come to my mind is this: is running too long healthy or can it do harm long term? 

In the recent American College of Cardiology meeting, the question of distance running and its effect on health was discussed.  Ill quote the article published recently in Heartwire online:

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Presenting the results of the study at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2010 Scientific Sessions, Schwartz, along with senior investigator Dr Robert Schwartz (Minneapolis Heart Institute, MN), his father, said that at least three runners have died this year during marathons, and three runners died during the 2009 Detroit Marathon, a race that included nearly 4000 finishers. Runners are typically considered a healthy subgroup of the general population, so these deaths are usually high profile and attract a great deal of media attention. One recent estimate suggests the rate of sudden cardiac death among marathoners is rare, roughly 0.8 per 100 000 participants.

In this study, the father-and-son team, both runners, wanted to assess coronary artery plaque in an elite group of marathon runners and compare their arteries with a control group. They identified 25 runners who completed the Minneapolis-St Paul Twin Cities Marathon every year for 25 consecutive years, thus completing a minimum of 25 marathons.

All subjects underwent coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA) using a 64-slice machine. Compared with controls, marathoners had significantly more calcified plaque volume—274 mm3 for the marathoners and 169 mm3 for the controls—and higher calcium scores and noncalcified plaque volumes, although the latter two measures did not reach statistical significance.

patient age, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels were similar between the marathoners and controls, but heart rate, weight, and body-mass index were lower in the runners. Also, HDL-cholesterol levels were significantly higher in the runners than in the controls. The average total- and LDL-cholesterol levels were 190 mg/dL and 115 mg/dL, respectively, in the marathon runners, suggesting that diet is not the reason for the increased calcification.

Jonathan Schwartz said they don’t know why the runners had more plaque in the arteries than the controls and that the findings are “counterintuitive.” However, he pointed out that metabolic and mechanical stresses might be a contributing factor. For example, long-distance runners train at increased heart rates and blood pressures, as well as spend increased time in an anaerobic state, possibly leading to antioxidant damage. Also, damage to the bones might lead to calcium leaking into the bloodstream. They stressed, however, such possible explanations need to be explored further.

Another study, also presented during the ACC meeting, suggested that marathon runners had increased aortic stiffness compared with individuals who exercised recreationally. The researchers, led by Dr Despina Kardara (Athens Medical School, Greece), evaluated blood pressure and aortic elasticity in 42 males and seven females who trained for and ran marathons and 46 men who did not participate in endurance exercise training. On average, the runners trained between two to nine hours per week and had been doing so for periods of 30 months to 21 years.

The marathon runners had significantly higher systolic blood pressure compared with the control group (126 mm Hg vs 115 mm Hg) and higher diastolic blood pressures. Pulse-wave velocity, used to assess aortic stiffness, was significantly higher in the marathon group.

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The findings however need further studies.  But suffice it to say that too much mechanical stress to any part of the body can do harm than good.   

I guess the take home message on this particular study is this:

Try not to push too hard in achieving your goal especially if it entails putting too much pressure on ones body especially the heart… Running is healthy as a form of exercise but anything we do and if we push ourselves to the limit may cause more harm than good.

If you run a marathon…dont stop.  Continue to enjoy it but again dont push yourself too hard….

Take Life In A Stride…!

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Soft Drinks and Health….

March 1, 2010

More and more studies are linking the consumption of soft drinks to health hazards… a recent article published in Cancer, Epidimeology, Biomarkers and Prevention showed that consumption of thses sugary drinks can increase ones risk to develop pancreatic cnacer.

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Background: Sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages (called soft drinks) and juices, which have a high glycemic load relative to other foods and beverages, have been hypothesized as pancreatic cancer risk factors. However, data thus far are scarce, especially from non-European descent populations. We investigated whether higher consumption of soft drinks and juice increases the risk of pancreatic cancer in Chinese men and women.

Methods: A prospective cohort analysis was done to examine the association between soft drink and juice consumption and the risk of pancreatic cancer in 60,524 participants of the Singapore Chinese Health Study with up to 14 years of follow-up. Information on consumption of soft drinks, juice, and other dietary items, as well as lifestyle and environmental exposures, was collected through in-person interviews at recruitment. Pancreatic cancer cases and deaths were ascertained by record linkage of the cohort database with records of population-based Singapore Cancer Registry and the Singapore Registry of Births and Deaths.

Results: The first 14 years for the cohort resulted in cumulative 648,387 person-years and 140 incident pancreatic cancer cases. Individuals consuming ≥2 soft drinks/wk experienced a statistically significant increased risk of pancreatic cancer (hazard ratio, 1.87; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-3.15) compared with individuals who did not consume soft drinks after adjustment for potential confounders. There was no statistically significant association between juice consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer.

Conclusion: Regular consumption of soft drinks may play an independent role in the development of pancreatic cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 19(2); 447–55

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The study highlights the consumption of sugar laden soft drinks as a culprit but not other sugary fruit juices.  Other findings that I need to highlight include:

  • Smokers in the study  had a 49% increased risk for pancreatic cancer.  Another reason for one to consider stopping smoking.
  • A history of diabetes was not associated with an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.  But I would say…any diabetic should be screend for pancreatic cancer and this disease manifests a high blood suagr.
  • Drinking 2 or more soft drinks per week was associated with more than 80% increase in risk for pancreatic cancer after adjustment for other risks.  Now …. I know of some who drink soft drinks daily 2-3 x. Scary thought indeed!!!!  In short LIMIT!

Heres a confusing thought from the study though: after adjustment, juice intake of 2 or more drinks per week overall was not associated with increased risk, but when smokers were excluded, there was an association between juice intake and pancreatic cancer risk increasing a persons risk by 60%.  More studies need to be done to examine this relationship. 

So friends…just like my reminder all the time… Limit and limit and not totally eliminate!

We still dont know what is really in the soft drinks that make us unwell.  For now… enjoy it but limit the consumption to sugar free Diet soft drinks. 

Better still enjoy the water!  its FREE!