HEALTH MATTERS: Risk of dying while jogging remains lowQ. Although we’ve been told that exercise is good for us, it seems like I’m hearing about more and more runners who die while jogging. Is exercise safe for “weekend warriors”?
By: Dr. Joshua Wynne, Grand Forks Herald
Q. Although we’ve been told that exercise is good for us, it seems like I’m hearing about more and more runners who die while jogging. Is exercise safe for “weekend warriors”?
A. There certainly has been an upsurge of interest in running in this country during the past decade or so. For example, the number of Americans participating in half or full marathons has doubled over the past decade to about 2 million.
That would imply that there are some 4,000 North Dakotans who have participated in a long-distance run this year. A recent study found that the risk of cardiac arrest associated with long-distance running was extremely low (about one out of every 200,000 runners).
Two-thirds of the people suffering cardiac arrest died, and the rest were successfully resuscitated. Male runners were at higher risk than female, as were marathoners compared with half marathoners. And it seemed that during the past decade, the risk of cardiac arrest increased, although it is still low. About half of the cardiac arrests were because of an abnormal thickening of the heart called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and only about one in six was due to narrowing of a heart artery.
So, while there has been some increase in the risk of dying with distance running, the risk remains quite low. I would recommend that anyone contemplating an increase in their daily exercise program, especially if contemplating distance running, discuss the plan with your health care provider before starting. In some higher-risk patients, it may be appropriate to do an exercise stress test first as a way of possibly identifying unknown heart problems.
Q. I noticed a bulge in my groin, and my doctor told me that I have a hernia. Although I’ve heard about hernias for years, what exactly are they? And how should they be treated?
A. A hernia is a defect in the muscle or connective tissue of the body that allows an organ to protrude through. They are common in the groin (so-called inguinal hernia), in the middle of the belly (“ventral hernia”) and also may occur at surgical sites (“incisional hernia”).
The bulge that you notice in your groin is probably because of the intestine protruding through the defect in the connective tissue of your groin. Typically, the bulge goes away when one lies down, because the force of gravity is no longer pulling on the intestine. Some hernias cause no symptoms, but others may cause local pain. The biggest fear we have with hernias is that the intestine can get stuck in the defect, and not get enough nutrient blood supply.
The intestine then becomes gangrenous, and must be urgently removed by surgery. In many cases, we recommend repairing the defect before this dreaded complication can occur. Surgery is usually successful and, in some cases, can be done with minimally invasive surgery. Most groin surgery is done as an outpatient, and the patient usually can resume regular activities in a few weeks.
Wynne is vice president for health affairs at UND, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and a professor of medicine. He is a cardiologist by training.
Submit a question to Health Matters at firstname.lastname@example.org or Health Matters, 501 North Columbia Road, Stop 9037, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037. Remember, no personal details, please.
The content of this column is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice or care. The information provided herein should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.