My family doctor retired earlier this year and I hadn't gone in to meet his replacement until today. I was invited to participate in a five year health study for masters athletes (meaning old althletes) through the University of British Columbia and thought it would be interesting. They are tracking heart related health issues in professional and serious amateur athletes trying to understand sudden unexpected heart issues in active people.
My new doctor filled out the lab work request for a blood lipid profile (cholesterol) and some other goodies and then said that since I'm a runner he'd like to have a baseline ECG while I'm there. The idea is that should I develop heart issues later they would have a baseline measure to compare it to.
I didn't think to ask questions at the time but after leaving I was left wondering if this was common for all athletes or just runners. He'd specifically asked if I was a runner (actually he looked at me and said "you're a runner") and I'm curious if I had still played hockey or was a serious volleyball player would the same test be recommended? Is there something inherent about running that makes our hearts want to explode?
My thought is that (though I don't know him really) this is a good doctor acting out of a sense of care and attention. There is a chance I'll be glad for that baseline measure one day (though I certainly hope not) and I'll think he was a wizard. I've seen runners fall and have heart issues at races. One young man died at my first marathon. There is a reason after all why the UBC study is so interesting and important. I've also seen recreational hockey players have heart issues. Recently in my home town one had to have the defibrillator they keep bolted to the wall used on him during a game.
But is there a bias about running? And if so is it valid?
My thought about heart issues at marathons is that they often arise out of unknown existing heart conditions brought to the surface from a stressful fitness activity. Then again I don't know and if there is a study I suspect doctors don't know either.
It all had me thinking though. In no way would I consider not running as I'm aware of the physical and mental health benefits running has brought to my life. I'm left thinking an ECG for fitness enthusiasts is likely an over abundance of caution which is fine. I wonder though if that is more or less likely to be directed at runners out of some sense of bias about the exertion it places on the body.
One plus for the new doctor that impressed me a great deal was when I asked if he felt as a vegan I needed yearly screening for B12 and iron. He looked at my last blood test a year ago and said that they were good and that if my diet didn't change there was no need to assume my levels would. Basically I was healthy a year ago as a vegan, so why not now? No need to assume being vegan necessitates ongoing blood work. I like him.