Friday, 30 December 2011

It may be good for the soul but what about the heart?

A number of articles have appeared in the athletics press recently with regards to running and heart problems suffered by the older runner.

Following my problems last year and some more distinct problems experienced by some of my training partners over the past few years.  These were articles I read with some interest.

The two main articles were one by
Martin Duff which appeared in the Athletics Weekly and another by Tony Crocker which appeared in the winter edition of Masters Athletics.

Both articles are concerned with the  occurrence of a condition known as atrial fibrillation in runners over the age of forty who have trained to a high intensity over a number of years.

In each case the author points out that atrial fibrillation (AF) is not limited to runners and is in fact quite extensive throughout the population.  So much so, that in its mildest form most people may never know they have the condition.  Tony Cocker, reports that, "according to Dr Mark Porter there are between 200,000 and 300,000 people in Britain with undiagnosed AF." While Martin Duff, who is carrying out his own research into the subject, has anecdotal evidence that there are a significant number of instances where AF has not been recognised by GP's, who have instead diagnosed with conditions such as exercise-induced asthma.

So what is AF - I am no medical person, so in my terms, I understand it to be an irregular heartbeat which ultimately can put a person more at risk of a stroke.

Back to the studies and Tony Cocker seems to lay most of the blame to the current interest and from my reading of his article scare mongering at the door of an Amercian study published in 2009 by Anthony Ainzer.  Questioning some of the validity of the sampling.

AF, however, does exist.  The question is, Is it brought on in later life because of high intensity training at a younger age? or is it that it only occurs in those who suffered from it any way and perhaps the increasing incidence of  reported AF is due to a higher proportion of runners extending their running into increasingly higher age ranges?

Whatever the reason the advantages gained by regular exercise, not least of all the enjoyment, for me still far out way  the disadvantages as long as we remember that old adage "listen to your body"

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