Confession time. I haven’t been to a general practitioner in years. I rarely get sick, feel great, and have no issues, so it seems like a waste of time. I know, I know–I can hear the scolding from everyone on the importance of wellness visits! So one of my resolutions this year was to get a wellness check in general, but especially because I plan to run my first full marathon this fall. My father died at an early age of a massive heart attack, so I’ve been concerned about heart disease and how advisable running a marathon is for someone like me with heart disease in my family.
I recently had my appointment and have been telling everyone what my doctor said when they ask me what’s new, so I wanted to also share here by linking up with Gretchen from Gretch Runs, a friend and fellow Pittsburgh runner and blogger that I’ve enjoyed running with a few times, even though she is much faster than I am! Her new What’s New linkup is with Kristen from See You in a Porridge, a new blogger that I actually just met through this linkup. That’s the beauty of linkups–to meet new blogging friends!
My doctor said that people wanting to know their risks of running a marathon is a big topic in the healthcare industry today. He said he was just at a seminar given by a cardiologist who gets asked the question a lot. The answer is that there is no test or predictive criteria that can determine anyone’s risk of running a marathon. He said that he could order a stress test, but since I run nearly every day, a treadmill test wouldn’t tell me anything I don’t know. He said EKGs don’t really tell you anything but could be done to establish a baseline. He said there is one test that can help to predict the chance of heart disease, but it has its drawbacks. It’s called an EBCT, and it measures the calcium in the heart. The drawback is that women calcify in the heart much less than men do, so it isn’t as accurate for women. Also, it gets more accurate as you approach the age of 50 so isn’t as accurate for younger people. But the big drawback is that it’s a huge dose of radiation. My doctor said if I were to do it, I should only get it done once in my life. He left the decision up to me, and I’ve decided not to have the test done. I think the risks outweigh anything it would tell me, and my doctor didn’t think I needed it.
He said the best indicator of whether you could run a marathon without having cardiac issues is to be true to yourself in training and listen to your body. He said if anything appears abnormal to call him immediately. He said many doctors wouldn’t take it seriously, but he will. The example he gave me is that if I can easily run 10 miles but suddenly start having trouble breathing at mile 3, call him. He’s had completely healthy patients drop dead during a marathon, and he’s had completely healthy patients drop dead at work. He said in every single case, there were always some warning signs in the days and weeks immediately preceding the incident. He said the spouse or family would tell him after, “You know, for the past two weeks he hasn’t seemed right” or something similar.
He gave my health a glowing assessment and said to keep doing exactly what I’m doing–keep running and keep eating vegan. He said my lifestyle is helping me to be healthy and to not change anything. He also said if he were in Las Vegas, he’d bet on me running a marathon without health problems. But he also said that running a marathon wasn’t something to take lightly and cautioned about the importance of listening to my body and taking anything odd in training seriously.
I thought that was great advice! I’m really happy to have him as a doctor. I can be one of the worst at strictly following my training no matter what, but I will definitely start taking his advice and make sure I’m in tune with what my body’s telling me.