Finishing your first marathon can be exhilarating. But for those less fit runners, it can also temporarily damage your heart.


Announced in a press release October 25, Canadian researchers have found, using MRI, that some marathoners can damage part of their left ventricle for up to three months after a marathon.

In the study, researchers measured the aerobic fitness - or the VO2 max, which measures how efficiently a body consumes oxygen - in a group of 20 runners. They discovered that less fit runners were more likely to stress one or more of the 17 segments that encompass the left ventricle. But the good news is that the damage can heal itself over time.

Although only temporary, such damage makes other parts of your heart work even harder - and that's when your risk for more serious cardiac injury might increase. How to avoid problems? Talk to your doctor before going the distance. And, if necessary, get your VO2 max tested, which can help determine the exercise load your ticker can handle.

This is particularly relevant as more and more seniors lace on their sneakers and hit the road. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada spokesperson Beth Abramson suggested runners train properly and get medical advice. "You can do it - physical activity is very important for your heart health," she stated. "Just be smart about it."

"Marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think," stated study head Eric Larose, a cardiologist and clinical researcher at Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec. He presented the findings at this week's Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

Newbie marathoner? Get expert advice here:,7123,s6-238-520-492-0,00.html