Recently there has been a rise of middle-aged male runners dying from heart attacks during marathons. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reported that no matter how much you run, you can’t ignore your diet and it’s relationship to heart disease. A study published in Missouri Medicine found that 50 men who had run at least one marathon a year for 25 years had higher levels of coronary-artery plaque than a control group of sedentary men.
Despite the increase rates of heart disease among older male runners, new research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session found that training for a marathon, which includes weekly long-distance runs, is an effective strategy for reducing your risk of heart disease.
The researchers studied 45 non-elite male runners between the ages of 35 and 65 that were training for the 2013 Boston Marathon as part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge fundraising team. Half of the runners ran at least three or more marathon, but all participated in a 18 week training program that consisted of group runs, access to cross-training, nutrition tips, pacing advice, and coaching. The runners logged between 12 and 36 miles each week.
The participants were medically screened before the study, and half had at least one cardiovascular risk factor, which included family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. After the training study was complete, LDL “bad” cholesterol decreased by 5%, body mass index (BM1) dropped 1 %. Oxygen consumption increased by 4%.
These findings do not apply to women, as more research needs to be done.
So is running heart healthy for older men? Running can be used as preventative medicine against depression, obesity, and heart disease, but it is not cure. Based off this research, I believe that running can prevent CVDs in older men, but they should consult with their doctors first.