Study finds runners not at greater risk for cardiac arrest

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - This weekend, thousands of the top athletes from around the world and right here in the Bayou City will take to the streets for the Olympic Trials Marathon and the Houston Marathon.

Many of these runners are in the best condition of their lives, but medical researchers have often wondered about the highly publicized incidences of heart attack near the finish line.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Medical Director Dr. George Chiampas is in town for the Olympic Trials and Houston Marathon. He co-authored a study published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine that took a hard look at 11 million runners, including Houstonians, over 10 years to find out the incidence of cardiac arrest.

The study found only a small risk: 1 in 184,000.

Chiampas told Local 2, "If you compare it to other physical activity or lifestyles, it's actually rather rare overall."

On the course, there was a 71 percent fatality rate, much lower than the 92 percent out-of-hospital rate.

Chiampas said runners fare better largely because of on-site care.

He explained, "Whether it's another runner that's doing 'bystander CPR' or a first responder or the use of a defibrillator, those are all messages that we now need to educate and take even further."

Chiampas urges runners to be in tune with their bodies and seek medical attention if they feel anything out of the ordinary.

He added, "Any atypical pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, anything like that, it's something (and) they should slow down."

So if you've caught the "running bug", experts said to check in with your doctor to let them know you're amping up your workouts. They may recommend a stress test which can detect problems before they occur.

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