Q: I'm 57; I've been running marathons for 25 years and was just told I have coronary artery disease. How is that possible?
BRAD J., Columbia, Mo.
A: Your heart health depends on what you do for exercise, how you fuel your body and manage stress and the quality of your daily environment. Stress, sugar, red meat and tobacco smoke can each overwhelm the benefits of physical activity.
And while a new study shows marathon running is associated with a reduction in levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, lousy LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, heart rate and weight, it also reveals that running marathons cannot protect you from hardening of the carotid artery associated with known cardiovascular risk factors (such as red meat and added sugars) and the constant stress of super-endurance training.
Many studies show that more than two hours of nonstop physical activity overwhelms your free-radical quenching systems and can cause injury. Another recent study showed that marathon runners had MORE coronary atherosclerosis than sedentary folks!
We suggest a balanced routine. Don't run more than 1.5 hours at a time and 15 miles a week. Walk an extra 30-60 minutes a day; try the interval training routine outlined at sharecare.com. Do strength training two to three days a week, lose the Food Felons and take up a stress-reduction practice like mindful meditation to help quell chronic inflammation.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.