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Health Watch: Cardiac Problems Most Likely To Blame For Death Of 2 Philadelphia Marathon Runners

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - There are mounting questions following two deaths at the Philadelphia Marathon Sunday. They're suspected to be cardiac related. Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl is On Your Side with more.

Monday health officials released the names of the second runner who died during the race.

They tell us it may take weeks to determine their official cause of death. Doctors we spoke with say they probably had undiagnosed heart conditions.

Dr. Frank Bowen is an avid runner, and was among 25,000 runners in Sunday's Philadelphia marathon.

"It takes a long time to train up for it, to make sure you do a good job and you complete it safely," said Dr. Bowen.

He's a runner and a cardiothoracic surgeon at Cooper University Hospital. He suspects that the two deaths at the marathon were caused by heart problems. One of the victims was John Lee, a 21-years-old student at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We do occasionally hear of individuals who, under very stressful situations, either have rhythm disorders, a valvular problem, or undiagnosed coronary disease which can lead to untold demise," said Dr. Bowen.

He says during a marathon the body is stressed, and undergoing many changes with blood sugar, potassium and sodium levels that can cause heart rhythm problems. For those with unidentified heart disease that typically becomes a problem the last four miles of the race, when the heart is most stressed.

"If the coronary vasculature is unable to supply enough oxygen to the heart, that is when patients will typically have a heart attack," said Dr. Bowen. He says it should take runners four months to safely train for the 26 mile run., and they should be cleared by a doctor.

"The most important thing is to get a good history and physical from your physician," said Dr. Bowen.

It's recommended that people get a physical before starting to train for a marathon, and an echocardiogram for those who have smoked, have lung disease or a family history of heart disease.

The second runner who died was identified today as G. Chris Gleason, from Clifton Park, New York. He was 40-years-old.

Related Link:
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Information

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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