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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2021 December;61(12):1700-5

DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.21.11903-6


language: English

Cardiovascular risk among ultra-endurance runners

Ankit B. SHAH 1 , Rebecca TORGUSON 1, Kezia ALEXANDER 2, Umar KHAN 1, Cheng ZHANG 1, Casey FISHER 1, Martin D. HOFFMAN 3, Matthew SEDGLEY 1, Andrew LINCOLN 2, Aaron L. BAGGISH 4

1 MedStar Health, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2 MedStar Sports Medicine Research Center, Baltimore, MD, USA; 3 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of California Davis, Sacramento, CA, USA; 4 Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

BACKGROUND: Our objective was to determine the prevalence and clinical correlates of conventional cardiovascular risk factors among ultra-endurance marathon runners.
METHODS: An electronic internet survey to characterize modifiable cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, tobacco exposure and obesity (BMI>30) among competitive ultra-endurance runners.
RESULTS: Among 290 respondents (mean±SD, 42±11 years, 31.4% female), 106 (36.6%) had at least one established cardiovascular risk factor. Female sex, younger age and participation in competitive high school or collegiate sports were associated with freedom from cardiovascular risk factors. There were no significant associations between risk factor status and either hours per week of running training (risk factor negative: 10±7 vs. risk factor positive: 11±8 hours, P=0.42) or years of ultra-endurance competition (6±8 vs. 7±9 years, P=0.38). Runners with at least one cardiovascular risk factor were more likely to have had personal or peer concerns about excessive alcohol use.
CONCLUSIONS: Conventional cardiovascular risk factors are common among ultra-endurance runners. Early-life participation in competitive sports, rather than adult exercise habits, is associated with freedom from the development of cardiovascular risk factors during middle age. Determining mechanistic explanations for the legacy effect of early life exercise as a means to reduce cardiovascular risk among aging athletes represents an important area of future work.

KEY WORDS: Sports; Marathon running; Heart disease risk factors

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