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Marathon Running Can Tax the Heart

Less-Fit Runners Could Develop Temporary Damage to the Heart During a Marathon, Study Finds
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Proper Training Is Essential for Marathon Runners

The New York City marathon is around the corner, and about 40,000 runners are expected to run. As long as they train appropriately and get clearance from a doctor, they should be OK, says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, the medical director of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series and a sports medicine doctor in New York.

"The heart is a muscle, and the better trained you are for the distance, the better the muscle is equipped to handle the distance," he says.

"Respect the distance and train for the distance," he advises. "Have an annual checkup and tell your doctor what exercise you plan to do as far as intensity and length," he says.

This is important. "If you say I am training to run the New York City marathon in seven hours, they will look at you differently and may do different tests to assess your cardiac fitness to do the event," he says.

The International Marathon Medical Directors Association recommends taking a baby aspirin on the day of the race to lower heart risks (assuming aspirin is advisable) and limiting caffeine to less than 200 milligrams before or during the race.

That said, marathon running is not for everyone. "If you are not appropriately trained and screened, you should not run," Maharam says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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