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Exercise Does Not Damage Heart Muscle

A recent study from Freiburg University in Germany shows that hard exercise does not damage a healthy heart. To improve for athletic competition, all athletes must suffer skeletal muscle damage. Without this damage their muscles will not grow and they will not become stronger. World-class competitive bicycle racers ride at close to their maximum heart rate for five to seven hours a day. Many researchers have been concerned that this very hard riding would damage their heart muscle as well as their skeletal muscles.

When muscles are damaged, they release enzymes into the blood stream. This study shows that the heart muscle is not damaged the way that skeletal muscles are (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, October 2003). Post exercise electrocardiograms and echocardiograms were normal as were blood levels of heart-specific enzymes, creatine kinase, creatine kinase MB and myoglobin. However, older bicycle racers did have a rise in another enzyme, brain natriuretic peptide, that is associated with heart function. The authors felt that this shows that older athletes may not adequately empty their heart's ventricles during the diastolic relaxation phase, and the increased pressure stretches the heart muscles to raise blood levels of this hormone.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm starting to train for a marathon. Are blisters inevitable?

Blisters don't just happen, you'll feel pain before they appear. If you feel pain in the skin of your feet while you're exercising, take off your shoes and look for a cause. Usually, your socks will be wrinkled or your shoes won't fit properly. If it's your socks, straighten the wrinkle. If it's your shoes, take them off. Wetness causes skin to stick to anything that rubs against it. Adding powder to the toes of your socks can help to keep your feet dry. It doesn't matter whether it's corn starch, anti-fungal powder or baby powder.

If you still develop blisters, try to soften the shoe where it rubs against your skin. Dab mineral or bath oil on the spot on the shoe that rubs against your foot, and stretch the shoe. If you still develop blisters, buy a new pair of shoes. If you're too frugal to throw away shoes, try putting a piece of adhesive tape on the spot on your skin where the shoe rubs.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: My son is concerned that he may not be getting enough iron. Should he take supplements?

Not unless blood tests show he has a deficiency. Several studies have shown that high blood levels of iron are associated with an increased risk of suffering heart attacks and cancers, particularly, those of the esophagus and bladder. A study from Harvard showed that it may be the meat source of iron, rather than just the iron itself, that causes the heart attacks and cancers. People who eat a lot of meat, fish and chicken have higher blood levels of iron than vegetarians. The iron in meat, fish and chicken is called heme iron, which is absorbed at a very high level, around 10-20 percent. On the other hand, the iron that you get from plants is absorbed very poorly; only one to three percent of the iron from leafy green vegetables and other plant sources of iron is absorbed.

You can find out if your iron level is too high by asking you doctor to draw blood for a test called transferrin iron binding saturation. People with a transferrin iron binding saturation of more than 60 percent are at increased risk for developing heart attacks and cancers. If your level is greater than 60 percent, you can reduce your intake of iron by restricting meat, fish, chicken and iron-supplemented foods, and you can get rid of extra iron by donating blood six or more times a year.

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Recipe of the Week
Chuckwagon Beans

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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