Claim that Cardio Causes Heart Disease is Inconclusive, Jumps the Gun

This morning I noticed a posting by a fellow fitness junkie, regarding an article by a doctor who claimed that "Cardio" causes Heart Disease. After reading it this morning, I felt like I should follow-up on that with a blog of my own. As a nutrition and fitness junkie myself, I am always reading into these studies, research, etc.

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In this post, the doctor cites a PubMed research article, entitled Myocardial late gadolinium enhancement: prevalence, pattern, and prognostic relevance in marathon runners cited that cardio is not as good for the heart as people thought. While the doctor did a great job of breaking down the research for those who aren't as medically inclined, the study in itself, presents many unanswered questions.

The study was performed with 102 active marathon runners who we're required to have participated in at least 5 marathons in the past three years with an age between 50 - 72. As the balance in the study, they had 102 asymptomatic age-matched individuals with no significant history of virgorous exercise or diabetes.

During the study, Cardiac MRI with LGE imaging was used to find abnormalities. (here's an example of an MRI with LGE) Their results appeared to suggest that 12% of the runners had evidence of myocardial (heart muscle) damage. Those who we're more sedentary only had a 4% abnormal LGE.

What Makes Sense from the Study

  • Excessive stress on the myocardial can lead to damage.
  • Marathon runners may put higher stress on the myocardial.
  • MRI with LGE may be a great way to predict and understand potential risks of major cardiac events.

The Common Sense

  • Any excess stress on any muscle in the body can lead to damage or failure.
  • Marathon runners typically put high stress on their body.

What It Feels It's Missing

  • What type of training did these marathon runner's do?
  • What was their diet like?
  • Did they have any deficiencies?(Vitamins considered Essential for Heart Health)
  • What heart rate do they typically hit?
  • What's their average Blood Pressure?
  • What other medical conditions are prevalent in the study?
  • What was the state of the other muscles in their body?

The Confusion Factor

The conclusion of the study suggests that "an unexpectedly high rate of positive myocardial LGE results may have diagnostic and prognostic relevance." I bring attention to that important operator word in the conclusion, "May". Not to ostensibly challenge the MRI with LGE, but I would make the assumption that with any imaging technology, it's subject to error, and the "positives" we may see for damage, may not actually be damage?

I'm not an imaging specialist, so don't get me wrong, just my patient assumption based on what I understand of the general technology.

Overall My Conclusion

To me, it seems like this particular Doctor jumped the gun on his claim of what the study proves, while referencing one other study that came to a similar result, but with the same missing factors. It seems like if those missing factors we're there, it would make a more palatable study for someone like me who looks for the "what if's" before I take a study more realistically.

I definitely look forward to seeing additional research on the subject in the future as they research additional focus groups and better understand their spread. I'd love to see how "hardcore" gym rats and body builders score in this test. Most of these individuals abuse supplements that, by normal medical beliefs, would increase their risks as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if the incidence of "positive" events on an MRI with LGE had higher incidence rates in comparison to marathon runners.

Lastly, I am by no means discounting the research, or the explanation the doctor did. In fact, I commend him on it. That's some hard work. However it seems a little early to be stating that "cardio" causes heart disease with so many questions left unanswered. I know that many in the "anti-cardio" crowd look hard for research proving it's not as beneficial, but this blog was too early, and the research appears at least to me, inconclusive of hard-evidence to support the claim further, for now.

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Posted in Personal Development Post Date 08/01/2019


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