Can Running a Marathon Cause Cardiac Arrest?

A 64-year-old man died of cardiac arrest while running the Mumbai Marathon on January 19th. Gajendra Manjalkar was taking part in the senior citizen category and collapsed at around the 4 kilometer mark.

During the same race, a 47-year-old had a heart attack and another 51-year-old man suffered a brain stroke.

Running is usually considered good for the heart and brain. What went wrong?

Dr Naveen Bhamri, a cardiologist from Max Hospitals say cardiac arrest and heart attacks while running are relatively rare and happen largely to people who already have some undiagnosed heart condition.

Dr Nikesh Jain, a senior cardiologist from Jaslok Hospital says that with age, even if a person is fit, the chances of getting plaque blockages in the arteries increase. The cover of these blockages is usually soft, and when the heart is stressed (while running or emotional stress) the cover can break, causing a cardiac event.

Dr Naveen BhamriWhen the heart is put under stress, the plaque ruptures, causing the whole artery to be blocked, leading to a heart attack. Similarly, if the blockage is in the brain artery, the rupture will lead to stroke.

Also Read: Do Genes Play a Role in Making You Win a Marathon?

Athletes Heart

Athletes who perform intense athletic training often undergo certain changes in their heart. These include small increases in size of the heart, and proportionate thickness of the heart muscle. This in itself is not a medical condition, but speaks of the body adapting to training and stresses. These changes allow the heart to pump more blood and oxygen to exercising tissues.

Normally, this condition is harmless and should not cause a problem.

But it is often confused with a more serious condition called Hypertropic cardiomyopathy or HCM. HCM is potentially fatal and has been linked to cardiac arrest-related deaths in young athletes. In this condition, the walls of the heart become thicker and the heart function slows.

According to doctors, heart events like cardiac arrest and heart attacks are rare during marathons, and are a result of previously undiagnosed condition.

In terms of numbers, it is 1 in 100,000.

According to this study, between years 2000 to 2010, number of cardiac events reported were just 59, with 42 deaths.

Also Read: FIT Quiz: Are You Marathon Ready? Here Are Some Useful Tips

Diabetics, Heart Patients, Keep These Points in Mind Before Running a Marathon

Gajendra Manjalkar suffered from both diabetes and hypertension. Could that have contributed to his sudden death?

Dr Jain insists that anyone over 40 who has diabetes, hypertension or any history of cardiac disease must be screened.

Dr. Santosh Dora, senior cardiologist with Asian Heart Institute, says that his you have a history of heart disease, keep these things in mind:

  1. Mandatory tests: It is non-negotiable to undergo all the required tests to ensure that the heart functioning is proper. These tests include ECG, routine blood tests, 2D-echocardiogram and stress test (certified by a cardiologist). In case you have undergone a bypass or angioplasty, then ensure that your heart pumping is normal before participating.

  2. Time gap is key: Our body needs ample time to recover from a major surgery. In case you have suffered a heart attack, undergone a heart procedure, take at least three months rest and give your body ample time to heal.

  3. Preparing in advance: Proper training is key if you want to build endurance and required fitness leading up to the Marathon day. If it is your first marathon, start with brisk walks and then slowly advance to jogging and then running. Do not suddenly start running if you do not exercise daily.

  4. Taking medicines: Don’t forget to take your medicines especially on the day of the run.

  5. Be vigilant about symptoms: Do not push yourself especially if you experience symptoms such chest pain or breathlessness, stop any strenuous activity and report to your cardiologist.

Also Read: 64-Yr-Old Man Dies of Cardiac Arrest While Running Mumbai Marathon

. Read more on Fit by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsDhawan Ruled Out of T20 & ODI Series in New Zealand: Report . Read more on Fit by The Quint.