Date
20 July 2017
Undergoing regular heart checkup and tracking the exercise intensity in terms of heart rate can ensure that people can do endurance running without worry. Photo: HKEJ
Undergoing regular heart checkup and tracking the exercise intensity in terms of heart rate can ensure that people can do endurance running without worry. Photo: HKEJ

Take good care of your heart to fully enjoy endurance running

The annual Hong Kong Marathon last weekend brought us some sad news as a first-time female runner passed away in hospital after collapsing at the finish line and slipping into coma.

Meanwhile, there were also incidents involving other participants, including a male runner who was said to be in critical condition after the race.

According to the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, the organizer of the race, a total of 853 participants required medical service during the race.

After the numerous media reports, some people, especially non-runners, may be looking upon long-distance races as dangerous events that could claim your life all of a sudden.

Well, let me tell you that such fears are unwarranted, and that long-distance runs can offer an enjoyable and beneficial experience as long as one follows some basic rules and takes some health precautions.

Take my own case. I have been diagnosed with heart disease but the illness hasn’t stopped me from becoming an enthusiastic endurance runner.

Endurance running is quite a fascinating sport that is extremely beneficial to health. It can strengthen the body and the mind. The more I run, the more gain I derive from it.

Undergoing regular heart checkup and tracking the exercise intensity in terms of heart rate can enable everyone to participate in the sport without worry.

My first distance running was at a charity event. As a cardiologist, I naturally paid heed to my heart condition and designed a training program with increasing intensity in an orderly fashion.

For beginner runners I would suggest the use of fitness trackers or smartwatches for heart rate measurement while jogging.

Target heart rate for moderately intense activities should be 50 or 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age, while during tougher physical activity it is about 70 percent to less than 90 percent of the maximum heart rate.

When you have got used to the targeted training intensity, you could gradually increase the intensity by 10 percent.

However, if runners experience chest discomfort, heart palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath during training, they must seek medical attention, follow doctors’ advice strictly and take exercise electrocardiogram.

Since many cases of sudden death are due to heart attack, everyone by the age of 35 should have undergone a detailed heart checkup once, including echocardiography and cardiac computer tomography, to find out if there is any presence of enlarged heart muscle cells, thickened walls of the heart chambers, or congenital heart defect.

Meanwhile, some runners are getting aggressive and overdoing training, which could lead to a high level of cardiac enzymes, causing problems such as damage to the heart muscles, enlarged right ventricle and cardiac fibrosis.

Runners should conduct their sessions gradually, follow a healthy eating diet and maintain good lifestyles that should lower the chance of getting heart diseases.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 14

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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DY/AC/RC

Cardiology, FHKAM (Medicine)

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