I have just returned from attending a course on the “Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes,” hosted by the University of Washington medical school in Seattle. It was a terrific conference at which academic leaders in the field gave updates on the latest research.
Dr. Aaron Baggish, from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, summarized two recent studies that have persuasively shown that coronary calcifications are more common in long-term endurance athletes compared to more sedentary controls.
When the studies were published this past summer, Dr. Baggish was asked to write an editorial commentary to share his perspective. That editorial was provocatively subtitled “Hearts of Stone.” The phrase refers to the appearance on CT scans of hearts with heavily calcified arteries as shown in this image:
In the last several years, a few reports were published suggesting that endurance athletes may be more prone to having build-up of plaque and calcium in their coronary arteries. Those reports presented a paradox, because we also know beyond any doubt that regular, moderate level exercise promotes cardiovascular health and longevity. The studies raised the concern that exercise could be harmful after a certain point.Read more