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Endurance Runners have a Higher Death Risk from Heat Exhaustion than Heart Complications

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 03:38 PM EDT

Running is a great form of cardio that can be incorporated into an overall healthy lifestyle. Even though running can be good for the body, several studies have examined the potential side effects of running too much since endurance running, which is defined as running races that are longer than 6.2 miles, has gained popularity over the past few years.

In a new study, researchers set out to estimate how many life-threatening events occur during these races. They found that endurance runners were more likely to die from heat exhaustion as opposed to heart conditions.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data collected at 14 popular races based in Tel Aviv between March 2007 and November 2013. Overall, there were a total of 137,580 runners. The researchers counted a total of just two serious cardiac events that were considered fatal or life threatening. One of the most recognized causes of sudden death in runners is arrhythmic death, which is caused by undetected heart disease in young people who appear to be healthy. This condition can be exacerbated during long-distance running.

The researchers found that death by heat exhaustion was 10 times more likely. During this time frame, the team counted a total of 21 serious cases of heat stroke. Two of these cases were fatal and 12 were life threatening.

"This research shows that heat stroke is a real threat to marathon and long-distance runners; however, there are no clinical studies of potential strategies to prevent heat stroke during these types of events," said Sami Viskin, MD, senior author of the study and a cardiologist at Tel Aviv Medical Center reported in the press release. "It's important that clinicians educate runners on the ways to minimize their risk of heat stroke, including allowing 10-14 days to adjust to a warm climate, discouraging running if a person is ill or was recently ill because a pre-existing fever impairs the body's ability to dissipate additional heat stress, and developing better methods of monitoring body core temperature during physical activity."

The study was published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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