When you hear about a devout runner having a heart attack, do you ever wonder how that can happen?
In general the answer is simple. Running does not guarantee cardiovascular health. It is only part of the equation. Everyone is subject to the impact of free radicals and oxidative stress. It is a normal part of metabolism, and is further exacerbated by environment, diet, and other lifestyle choices. In a perfect world, our bodies begin losing the battle against free radicals in our late 20s. It is at this time that our ability to quench the destruction becomes less than the amount of the attacks, and hence we begin to see the initial signs of aging.
Of course we aren’t in a perfect world anyway and so we have more oxidative stress on our bodies than our ancestors and less antioxidants from our foods than ever. In the case of exercise, aerobic exercise increases our production of free radicals. Free radicals in our blood stream break down cholesterol and lead to the formation of plaque which builds up in the arteries and leads to a blockage which creates a heart attack (this is very simplified).
Therefore, a runner needs much higher levels of antioxidants in their diet to offset the additional oxidative stress. This doesn’t account for all the heart attacks from runners, but probably for a high percentage of them. I exercise at minimum an hour a day and most days two hours. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and I take handfuls of high quality antioxidants (Proanthenols, X-Cell, Xtra Antioxidants, Daily BioBasics).
It is critical to exercise, and it is also critical to take high amounts of quality antioxidants and eat antioxidant rich food.