Heart of a runner | TheUnion.com

Heart of a runner

Weight loss is the first thing that comes to the minds of most people when they think about the benefits of jogging or running.

But in reality, the benefit of running that is probably most important is cardiovascular fitness. Life can be scary without a healthy heart, as, unfortunately, some people know.

This point was brought firmly home for me two weeks ago when I had an EKG done at the hospital in preparation for a surgical procedure last week to repair my deviated septum.

(I suffered a broken nose about 20 years ago in an after-work business basketball league game when I was hit hard in the nose as I was driving down the right side of the lane to the basket. Quite literally adding insult to injury, I was called for an offensive foul, which left me in angry disbelief, walking up and down on the sidelines in intense pain with blood pouring out of my nose. Maybe some refs really do need glasses?)

Anyway, back to the point: Due to sinus infections, financial considerations and the timing being as good as it was going to get (after all, who really wants to have their nose broken again?), it was time to finally get my nose fixed.

I called my doctor to find out if the operation was a go, checking to see if the EKG results came out fine. He told me that the person at the hospital who read the results told him that it was probably OK to go ahead, but that I had a “possible left atrial enlargement and a possible right bundle branch block.”

Say what?

It was explained to me that it probably wasn’t anything serious, and that there may have been a misfiring of the electrical system between my brain and my heart.

All these years I’ve been eating a healthy diet and running regularly, with no heart problems in my family.

How could there be anything wrong?

My wife, Laura, based on her unfortunate history of losing her mother and favorite aunt (who was like a second mother to her) at 16 and father at 21, as well as her first important teen boyfriend dying in a car crash, understandably wanted me to check it out on the Web, which only made it worse.

Basically, I found that everything could be fine, or the opposite, that my heart might be in extremely bad shape.

We spent that night in limbo, my wife, haunted by her past experiences, very upset, with me doing my best to be calm about it, for both our sakes.

Thankfully, the next morning, I got a call from Cody Reeves, an anesthesiologist at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, to go into further detail about the EKG results at my doctor’s request, knowing I was concerned.

He explained that I have an “athlete’s heart,” which would account for the thickened, strong heart muscle, as well as the abnormally slow heart rate. A nurse, after reading the results, had flagged them, unaware that I run regularly.

Reeves went on to further explain that he would give my heart an A+ and would exchange EKG results with me in a minute. He said they just don’t see hearts like that around here very often, of “well trained athletes in incredible shape,” thereby the initial confusion.

As you can easily imagine, his call was happily received and made my day. My wife was actually so happy and relieved that she cried. Guess she wants to keep me around a while…

Running does your heart a great deal of good.

Sure, you’ll hear stories about runners who have heart attacks and die on the run, but those are really the exceptions, and often have to do with family hereditary heart problems.

In life, we often have to make decisions based on playing the odds. That running will build you a healthier heart is one of the best bets you can find.

And there are many more heart benefits than just physical.

With Valentine’s Day two days away, the connection of heart and love is in the foreground. Talk to most runners and you will find that they love running. Not like it. Love it. And they can’t imagine life without running being a part of it.

That kind of passion and love of an activity and all the positives that come from it are an important part of a happy and healthy heart.

Then there’s the competitive heart. What drives runners to keep pushing when they are already fatigued? All sorts of answers, like desire, wanting to be the best they can be, or just the love of competition.

So, with Valentine’s Day almost here, I invite you, if you haven’t already, to try running.

It’s good for your heart’s health, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Steve Bond, who lives in Grass Valley, is a competitive runner and a regular contributor to The Union. he may be reached at steveb@theunion.com.

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