Is Coronary Artery Calcification in Highly Active People Like Marathon Runners Associated With Increased Risk of Death?

Bottom Line: Some studies have suggested that people with high levels of physical activity way beyond current physical activity guidelines, such as marathon runners, can have significant build-up of calcium in the arteries of their heart called coronary artery calcification (CAC). But data are limited about the risk of death in these highly active people with CAC. This study included nearly 22,000 men (average age almost 52) with varying levels of self-reported physical activity and who underwent CAC scanning. Elevated levels of CAC were more common among highly active men but after a decade of follow-up they didn’t have an increased risk of death compared with less-active men. Men with the highest levels of physical activity, regardless of CAC level, had a lower rate of death than those with the lowest activity levels. This study was observational and doesn’t allow for causal interpretations of the findings.

Authors: Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and coauthors.