Are Marathons Safe For Runners Over 50?

With each Spring and the beginning of running season comes the inevitable news: sudden cardiac death at the _____ marathon.  It seems to occur in nearly every major marathon across the United States.  So is marathon participation bad for your heart, especially in older participants?  Cardiologist Davinder Jassall says "no". 

In 2002, Dr. Jassall began to study the hearts of runners using blood tests, ultrasound and cardiac CT scans.  From 2002 to 2008, he studied the hearts of runners ages 18 to 40 before, immediately after and one week after running a marathon.  More recently, Dr. Jassall has done similar studies on marathon runners over the age of 50.  Studies suggest that the hearts of 50 year olds react similarly to the hearts of younger runners following a marathon.  In marathon runners, the right side of the heart becomes swollen and dysfunctional after running 26.2 miles but one week after the race has returned to normal.  Jassall says that temporary heart damage as seen immediately after running a marathon is not significant and does not have long-term cardiac effects.