Cardiac Arrest and Marathons – Don’t Take Off Your Running Shoes Just Yet

Marathon runners have been making headlines more and more in recent years. Not because of the times they put up, but rather the dramatic images of runners collapsing and in some cases, dying during or right after an event.

Should you stay out of the race? Not so fast. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that if you want to go the distance, go ahead – as long as you don’t have a pre-existing condition.

The study looked at nearly 11 million runners who took part in marathons between 2000 and 2010.

By scouring media reports and checking with medical staff of races, the researchers discovered 59 cases of cardiac arrest, where a runner became unconscious with no pulse during the race or within an hour of finishing. Unfortunately forty-two of these runners died, and 51 of the 59 cases happened in men.

The overall figures translate to 1 cardiac arrest per 184,000 participants and 1 death per 259,000 participants, the researchers said. Those numbers are low compared to other athletic activities, as shown by prior studies of deaths in college athletes, triathlon participants and previously healthy middle-aged joggers, researchers said.

“You hear about this more and more,” said Dr. Aaron Baggish, senior author of the study.

Cardiac Arrest and Marathons

One of the reasons we have seen an increase in the number of collapses is due to an increase, overall, of runners who are trying to push themselves to stay fit, giving the illusion that cardiac arrest is on the rise amongst runners.

“More cases showed up during 2005-2010 than in the preceding five-year span, but that’s just because more people are participating in the races,” Baggish said. More worrisome was the finding that among male marathoners, the rate of cardiac arrest per 100,000 runners was higher during the latter half of the decade than in the first half.

Baggish thinks that’s because of a shift in attitudes about who can run long distances. Even a decade ago, 26.2 mile marathons were considered appropriate only for very athletic people, he said. But more recently people have come to think of it as “something anyone can do,” and even as a healthy activity for lowering the risk of heart disease, he said. So it has attracted people with a family history of early heart disease or early deaths. “These are just the people who are likely to get into trouble,” says Baggish

In the 31 cardiac arrests for which researchers could find a cause, most were due to clogged hardened arteries or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a sometimes inherited condition in which an unusually thick heart muscle can interfere with the pumping rhythm.

According to Baggish, most of the victims were unaware of their pre-existing conditions, so he would encourage aspiring and experienced runners to talk to their doctors about heart risks associated with distance running.

American Heart Association Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, president of the , called the study “reassuring” for finding so few cardiac arrests. “For most people, running a marathon, if you are so inclined, is a reasonably safe proposition,” he said.

Tomaselli, a heart specialist at Johns Hopkins University, also said runners should pay attention if they feel chest pain, dizziness, light-headedness or unusually short breath or rapid heartbeat while running. “You should listen to your body,” he said.

“We don’t want to alarm people about marathon running. The benefits of exercise are well established” said one of that report’s authors, Dr. Navin Kapur of Tufts Medical Center in Boston. The report shows even seasoned marathon runners can have heart disease, something paramedics should keep in mind if a runner shows suggestive signs, said Kapur.

Healthy Lifestyles – BC Leads, Canada Follows

Iridia Medical is an advocate for healthy living. We believe positive choices can be made to enhance physical and mental health. As such, we encourage all of our employees to implement a healthy living plan that works to fit their unique lifestyles.

No surprise, (to me anyway) it looks like Iridia is not alone. According to a 2011 Stats Canada Community Health Survey, British Columbia families are leading the way in healthy living.

The Community Health report card ranks BC at or near the top on most indicators measured.

Healthy Lifestyle Highlights:

  • British Columbian adults have the lowest rates of self-reported obesity or overweight in the country, at 46.6 per cent. 
  • Physical activity rates for those 12 and older are the highest among the provinces, at 59.6 per cent.
  • Smoking rates are the lowest in the country, at 15.8 per cent.
  • British Columbian families rank third among all Canadian jurisdictions in fruit and vegetable consumption, with 40.7 per cent of those 12 and older consuming fruit or vegetables five or more times per day. 
  • British Columbia continues to increase its ranking of self-perceived health for those over 12 years of age, moving from fourth to second in the country (along with Newfoundland and Labrador) with 60.9 per cent of respondents reporting very good to excellent overall health.
Fruit - Healthy Lifestyles

Minister of Health Michael de Jong

“Once again, British Columbians have shown that they are among the healthiest in the country – something each of us can be proud of. However, prevention is the best medicine, and if we want to continue to reduce the burden of chronic disease and illness on our health system and our lives, we are going to need to keep striving for improvement.”

“Through initiatives like Healthy Families BC, our comprehensive smoking cessation program and our formal partnership with ParticipACTION to promote physical activity, we are committed to helping British Columbians get and stay healthy.”

Healthy Lifestyles – Quick Facts:

  • B.C. is the first province in Canada to partner with ParticipACTION 
  • Evidence shows that individuals, who are physically active, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, enjoy a healthy diet and refrain from smoking, can reduce their risk factors for most chronic diseases by up to 80 per cent. 
  • Obesity rates in children have almost tripled in the last 25 years. 
  • In British Columbia, 51,000 children (seven per cent) aged 2-17 years were classified as obese About 2,000 British Columbians die prematurely every year due to obesity-related illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
    • 138,500 (20 per cent) as overweight.

Healthy Living Activities at Iridia

Kayaking - Healthy Lifestyles

Michael ready to take on the Capilano River as part of the Red Bull Divide and Conquer race.

To embrace healthy lifestyle choices, staff at Iridia participate in a variety of healthy activities. One such activity was our 90-day fitness challenge led by Innovative Fitness. Read more on the challenge here: IF Challenge.

Members of our staff also recently participated in the Walk to Fight Arthritis.

Many of our staff are also are avid bikers and brave temperamental Vancouver weather on two wheels. But it’s not just biking. You may even see Iridia staff members kayaking down rivers, surfing the ocean, playing squash, skiing, snowboarding, running, rock climbing, …the list could go on, but you get the idea.

With the help of Iridia, each of us in our own way has embraced a work/life balance that allows us to shine in all that we do.

For resources to support healthy eating, healthy lifestyles and healthy communities, visit:

Bike to Work Week

During the last week of May, Iridia staff participated in Metro Vancouver’s Bike to Work Week. Bike to Work Week which is a twice annual event, encourages avid cyclists and new riders alike to sign up, log their communities, win prizes, and be part of making Metro Vancouver a better place to live. Improving air quality, reducing road congestion, improving personal health and connecting with their communities are a few of the benefits realized by Bike to Work participants.

This spring’s Bike to Work Week had approximately 4,500 participants, who biked a total of 320,435 logged kilometres! The three person Iridia bike team rode a total of 300km throughout the week.

Bike to Work Week

Aside from the environmental benefits of biking instead of driving, cycling is great for your health! The heart is one of the most important organs for a healthy life but can suffer from an inactive lifestyle. Cycling is ideal for training the heart to be stronger which results in less stress on the heart. All the risk factors that lead to a heart attack are reduced, and regular cycling decreases the likelihood of heart attack by more than 50%. In addition, moderate cycling can prevent, or at least reduce, high blood pressure and help avoid stroke or damage to your organs.

Bike to Work Week

One of Iridia`s Values is Social Responsibility. Bike to Work Week is a great example of how this value goes beyond Iridia`s bottom line and extends into promoting and encouraging practices that are socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. Iridia has provided its employees with the facilities and amenities to bike to work and, in turn, directly impacts the amount of greenhouse gasses and other emissions that could be potentially put into the air by driving to work.

Even though Bike to Work Week is over, our staff will continue to bike to work, rain or shine, and we encourage everyone to get out for a cycle!


Bike Route Map of Metro Vancouver 

ICBC Bike tips


Stand Up Against Plantar Fasciitis


Plantar Fasciitis

A new University of British Columbia study is exploring alternatives to traditional plantar fasciitis treatments. Led by Jack Taunton, a professor of sports medicine, the study touts prevention rather than reactive treatments.

Jack Taunton knows all about sore feet. Since the ‘70s Jack has run 62 marathons, or roughly 200,000 kilometres. Jack has experienced the intense pain and discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis. “I had burning pain in the middle part of my back heel,” he recalls.

Plantar Fasciitis

His own experiences with plantar fasciitis have heightened his desire to learn more about the debilitating condition. His research aims to not only focus on those who run marathons, but anyone who spends long periods of time standing. Teachers, nurses and construction workers are especially vulnerable to plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis affects the plantar fascia; the thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. It extends from the heel to the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia contributes to support of arch of the foot by acting as a sort of rubber band, where it undergoes tension when the foot bears weight. 

Through accumulative abuse the fascia can become inflamed, which makes a simple task like walking difficult and painful. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, plantar fasciitis accounts for 15 percent of all adult foot complaints.

Plantar Fasciitis

Jack is midway through the WorkSafe BC funded study, which is testing a multi-element exercise program as a preferred early method of treatment for plantar fasciitis and the more advanced plantar fasciopathy. Plantar fasciitis refers to the foot pain caused by ligament inflammation, while plantar fasciopathy refers to deterioration of the ligament itself. Plantar fasciitis generally last for three to four weeks, at which point it becomes plantar fasciopathy.

As part of the study, Jack is working with 320 individuals whose plantar fasciitis was triggered from standing for long periods of time at work. “We are very interested in whether chronic plantar fasciopathy could be improved with an exercise program,” he comments. The idea is to strengthen the ligament itself, reduce overall pain and prevent the condition from worsening over time.

Currently the standard treatment comes in the form of cortisone injections. These injections can lead to downtime in the workplace and high claim costs for employers. Jack believes exercise may be a viable alternative treatment, which may negate the need for injections in some cases. Once micro-tears start forming in the fascia, injections are not effective. “Cortisone inhibits inflammatory response but cannot repair degeneration,” Jack explains.

“Can exercise help heal those micro-tears? If we heal the tear, will function improve and go away?”

These are questions Jack wishes to answer with the WorkSafe study. Previous research from a smaller study Jack performed in 2009 suggests that exercise can significantly reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis.

Jack suggests an exercise routine consisting of dynamic and static stretches as well as balancing exercises. It is his hope to show that the use of a pragmatic exercise regimen can be as effective as or better than a cortisone injection at relieving pain.


The findings could affect a variety of industries, especially health care workers who tend to stand on their feet for twelve- hour shifts or more. “If workers can experience a significant reduction in pain while at the workplace, they will be more productive, easier to work with, and, of course, happier,” says Jack.

As an employer of EMS personnel, Iridia is interested in plantar fasciitis and potential remedies of the condition. At times, Iridia paramedics can be on their feet without rest for many hours. Recently, we profiled plantar fasciitis in our quarterly paramedic newsletter. It is our hope we can bring more light to this condition within our workforce. We encourage our employees to stretch, as it can not only reduce pain, but also prevent it.

At the workstation, or on the job, a few minutes of stretching every day can help relieve stress, relax tense muscles and re-energize your day. 

An Innovative Look at Fitness

So, it’s a month past Christmas and if you’re like me you’re still feeling a little sluggish post-eggnog, turkey and chocolate, and perhaps not quite into the habit of those resolutions you made to make fitness a priority in 2012. I’m guessing a lot of people are in the same boat, so this year, Global is inviting its staff into participating in a 90-Day fitness challenge.

innovative fitness

The conversation around implementing some kind of fitness program for our staff came out of an indicator from our staff satisfaction survey that 60% were interested in a fitness initiative of some kind. We spent a lot of time researching the types of things companies are doing to promote fitness in the workplace, and went the gamut on ideas from as simple as offering an annual subsidy to individuals for a fitness initiative (gym membership or equipment, personal trainer, etc.) to signing on to a comprehensive online program that offered biometric screening, customized fitness programs, life-change programs (weight loss, smoking cessation, etc.), online tracking, education, individual health and fitness coaching, etc.

In the end, we decided on a program that was more collaborative and team-oriented than simply offering a lump some of money, and that wouldn’t break the bank with the expensive online programs designed for much larger companies. We found a Vancouver-based company called Innovative Fitness (IF) that has provided the best of both worlds for us.

They will run a 90 Day Challenge in which a beginner and advanced walk/run program are developed for those who want to participate, with the goal being participation in three walk/runs per week, with specified goals in terms of heart rate and length of time, depending on the program level. Staff will submit their daily fitness activities by email to the IF coach, who will track each individual’s progress. Innovative Fitness will also provide weekly education updates and fitness tips and provide individual coaching whenever staff need it to modify their programs (MJ in Fort St. John isn’t likely to do a walk/run at -34). At the beginning of the challenge, the team from IF came to our office to do a biometric assessment of all participants (measuring height/weight, BMI, etc.) to provide a starting point. All activities are tracked according to a points system (so many points for submitting your daily log, plus additional points for every 15 minutes of exercise), and every certain number of points gains an entry to a prize to be drawn at the end of the challenge. In addition, everyone doing the challenge will participate in a fun closing event at the end of the challenge to celebrate the achievement of 90 days of increased physical activity.

innovative fitness

When we first talked about the concept, we had no idea what kind of participation we might expect from our staff. To our surprise, we have 100% participation – even our two staff who work remotely from other locations are participating! We are excited about the impact this initiative will have in each person’s health and life, and are looking forward to swapping war stories along the way.

They say it takes 40 days to develop a new habit – we’re hoping that after more than twice that many days, physical activity will become a part of everyone’s life in a new and exciting way. It’s just another way we are investing in keeping our staff healthy and fit (we also provide fresh fruit and healthy snacks in the office), so they can be at their best at work and in life.