While endurance exercise such as marathon training is cardioprotective, an increasing frequency of race-related cardiac arrests and sudden death has been observed in middle-aged men since the year 2000. An evidence-based strategy for prevention is considered based on identifying atherothrombosis as the underlying cause in this susceptible subgroup. Review of all articles on PubMed related to acute cardiac events during marathons. Male gender and the marathon compared with the half-marathon were identified as significant risk factors for race-related cardiac arrests, which events increased 2.3-fold in the latter half of a 10-year prospective registry beginning in the year 2000. There were 50 cardiac arrests in runners who were 86% male with a mean age of 42 years. The main cause of sudden death was atherosclerotic heart disease in those over the age of 40 including myocardial infarction in 12 of 13 (93%) cases over the age of 45 as assessed retrospectively. Inflammatory biomarkers predicting acute cardiac events and hypercoagulability with in vivo platelet activation were demonstrated in same-aged asymptomatic middle-aged men during marathons. Excess cardiac morbidity and mortality in middle-aged men during marathons is mediated by atherothrombosis which may render non-obstructive coronary atherosclerotic plaques vulnerable to rupture. Prerace low-dose aspirin usage is prudent to protect susceptible runners from a high, if transient, risk for cardiac arrest during races as evidence-based to prevent first myocardial infarctions in same-aged healthy men.
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