Does running put you at risk of a heart attack? - Women's Running

Does running put you at risk of a heart attack?

Author: Holly Taylor

Read Time:   |  May 23, 2022

This 20-minute heart health test could save lives – we speak to experts VisitHealth

Is my heart fit for running?

Nothing gets your heart racing like running – whether it’s 5k, or half or full marathon. When your heart rate monitor hits the cardio zone you feel so powerful and in control of your health. Anything is possible! But how do you know your heart can handle this much stress? How do you know your heart can even handle the training for such a run?

Research shows that long-distance running heightens the risk of a heart attack. Roughly half of coronary heart disease cases are down to genetics, the other half is related to lifestyle or environment. So whilst in the long-term running is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, in the short term it may open you to unknown risks.

As a runner, should I get my heart health checked?

Over time running makes us healthier and stronger, however, it does come with its own risks, especially when you have just started running or you take on a new challenge. For example, your risk of a cardiac arrest almost doubles during a marathon from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 57,000 due to the added strain on your body. This is why some races haves started to advise having a health checkup or ECG before participating. So should you get tested?

Here is a list of key factors that mean you are more at risk:

  • You have recently taken up running
  • You are about to participate in a race or long-distance run
  • You have a family history of heart problems
  • You have experienced symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain or an irregular heartbeat
  • You have risk factors such as being overweight, having high blood pressure or you are over 40

Checking your heart health

If you are at risk of a heart attack, which could be brought on by running, then your heart is probably already showing signs – even if you don’t see them yet. Simple tests can be run to check your heart’s health, giving you peace of mind that your heart is fit for your next run.

An ECG is such a test which can check for underlying heart weaknesses and assess your general heart health to make sure you are race or run ready!

What is an ECG?

An ECG looks at your heart’s rate, rhythm and electrical activity to detect problems with your heart. Sensors attached to the skin detect the electrical signals produced by your heart each time it beats. These signals can be used to identify a number of heart problems or defects.

An ECG can help detect:

  • arrhythmias – where the heart beats too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly
  • coronary heart disease – where the heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances
  • heart attacks – where the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked
  • cardiomyopathy – where the heart walls become thickened or enlarged

An ECG is painless and can be easily carried out in the comfort of your home.

ECG at home

VisitHealth is a London-based at-home healthcare provider, and can bring ECG testing to your door with immediate results. These will be discussed with you and can be shared with your GP to advise you on next steps if irregularities are detected.

“Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK. It accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths, that’s about one every three minutes.” British Heart Foundation

Why should I pay for an ECG at home?

By year end, the NHS expects waiting lists will double to 10-million, likely leading to testing and treatment on a reactive-only basis. However, for a long-distance runner with an underlying heart condition, reactive over proactive could mean the difference between life and death.

VisitHealth has same-day appointments available, meaning your heart’s health needn’t weigh on your mind. Patients can book tests at a time and place to suit them, with an ECG taking just 20-minutes.

So, is your heart healthy?

Without an ECG, you’ll never quite know. You may not be suffering from shortness of breath, chest pains or dizziness. You may not fit the known risk factors of obesity or high blood pressure. But your heart may still be at risk.

As a runner you have already taken steps to improve your health – don’t let running steer you wrong. Check your heart health today. Book an ECG with VisitHealth.

For loads more training, gear and health advice, sign up to the Women’s Running Plus membership, starting from just £2.99 per month.

Choose from print + digital or digital only and get extra benefits such as free access to the library of digital back issues, extra content, training plans all in one place, and valuable discounts from our partners.

Join us today.

Written by

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor is the digital editor of Women’s Running and co-host of the Women’s Running podcast, where she shares her running journey as well as the inspiring stories of women runners all over the country. She’s never been the sporty type, but running is the first time she’s felt real joy in getting active. She loves talking about running with a community of inclusive and supportive runners, and Women's Running is the perfect space for this. She's currently aiming for a half marathon PB!

Meet the team

We use cookies to give you a better experience on By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our Cookie Policy.

OK, got it