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Marathoners' hearts stressed, but not necessarily by heart attacks

Detailed imaging of runners’ hearts before and after races doesn’t find signatures of heart attacks

By
12:10pm, November 19, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. — Even though studies have found that marathoners can experience changes in heart structure and function consistent with cardiac damage, the runners aren’t necessarily having small heart attacks, a new investigation has found.

Previous studies have revealed that during a race, marathon runners often show evidence of dangerous changes to the heart, including an enlarged right atrium (the chamber that receives oxygen-starved blood from the body) and elevated levels in the blood of enzymes that signal heart damage. These studies have raised concern about the stress prolonged exercise puts on the heart.

And events during some races haven’t always been reassuring: In October, two people died during a half marathon in San Jose, another during the Baltimore Marathon and three more runners died later that same month

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