Study shows excessive running can lead to coronary artery plaque


MISSOULA, Mont. - Whether running, walking, jogging or lifting weights, exercise is known to improve health and benefit our lives.

But one study out of Minneapolis shows that excessive running can lead to a dangerous heart disease.

Running 15 miles can keep your heart healthy, and running 45 miles per week can even help you more. But as a recent study shows running 45 miles per week in the long term could really hurt you.

We spoke with a sales associate at the Runner's Edge in Missoula, John Pitcairn.

"You got to consider the wear and tear on your body and part of that is going to be your heart. You might not feel like it now but later on, things start to feel crummy," said Pitcairn.

There's a new study out of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation that shows excessive running can actually lead to runner's plaque or otherwise known as coronary artery plaque. It's a heart disease that can block blood flow and heighten the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

"It's human nature to push the envelope and we push, push, push until it goes over the edge and then it's too late," said Pitcairn.

Cardiologist Dr. Robert Schwartz of the Minneapolis Heart Institute is one of the study's authors. He says the study did not show why they have more plaque, but he has some thoughts.

"If you think about it as a person who has been running all those years, higher blood pressure, higher heart rates, metabolic by-products," said Schwartz.

But another runner we spoke to isn't worried. "There are lots of other ways, you know, to shorten your lifespan with other bad habits for you, like eating too much or being too sedentary or smoking and you know, when I'm out running, at least I am enjoying my surroundings and I'm enjoying what Missoula and Montana have to offer," said Missoula runner and resident Katie Gibson.

For now, the experts in Minneapolis will continue to monitor marathon runners to see if higher plaque affects them.

People like Gibson will keep running.

"Anything could get me. You know, driving my car, riding my bike, any of that stuff, it's a risk I am willing to take," said Gibson.

The report's bottom line -- moderation is the best for long-term benefits.