Running and Health Tests (Recipe: Broccoli and Cheese Casserole)

We all know that running can lower blood pressure and can help with cholesterol levels.  Even today at my dermatology appointment the nurse took my blood pressure which was 104/62 and immediately asked if I was a runner.  Turns out my dermatologist is a pretty hardcore runner as well and ran Boston in 2010.

But if your doctor doesn’t ask, it’s extremely important to tell him/her if you are a runner or exercising heavily at your appointment as well as how often and how recently you did tough workouts.  “It can influence how we interpret tests,” says William Roberts, M.D., a family physician and medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon.  For instance, if you recently ran, your doctor may want to reschedule lab work.  Here are some specific examples.

1. Creatine Kinase.  This tells your doctor whether you’ve had a heart attack or other type of muscle breakdown.  This test is often done if you have unexplained muscle pain or weakness or chest pain or tightness.  However, when you have a tough run (especially one that incorporates quite a few downhills), you can elevate these levels for a couple of days because you have caused more microtears in your muscle fibers.  It may make it impossible for your doctor to tell what is causing the results of your test.

2. Creatinine with eGFR.  This test tells your doctor how well your kidneys are functioning and is performed often when you experience fatigue or have trouble sleeping.  However, too much ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories that runners often take with a hard workout can damage your kidneys.  Therefore, if you have abnormal results on this test, you may need to cut back on the meds.

3. Electrolyte Panel.  This test tells your levels of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes in your blood.  It’s often done as part of a regular check-up.  However, a recent workout can leave you temporarily depleted, so it is best to to do this test at another time.

4. Ferritin.  This test tells your doctor if you have low iron levels (I can’t tell you how many times I have had this test done–I naturally have very low iron levels.)  The test is often done if you experience fatigue, weakness or headaches.  Low levels along with fatigue and low hemoglobin may mean you need iron supplements.  However, ferritin also increases with inflammation which can artificially inflate your numbers.

5. Hemoglobin.  A hemoglobin test will tell you if you have anemia or a low red-blood-cell count.  Slightly lower levels can be normal in a runner because your body produces extra fluid to keep your sweat and blood flowing freely, diluting your red blood cells.  But iron-deficiency anemia is common (I have had it!), especially in women, and can cause fatigue that will hamper your running.

6. Urinalysis.  This test can tell your doctor whether you have kidney disease, a metabolic disorder or a urinary-tract infection.  It is sometimes part of a wellness exam.  However, blood and protein in your urine (which are normally red flags for kidney disease or even cancer) can occur for a day or two following a long or fast run.

7. Vitamin D.  A Vitamin D tests tells your blood levels of this nutrient and is often given if you’re experiencing frequent fractures, low energy or sleep issues.  Outdoor runners in warm climates often do not have an issue with a Vitamin D deficiency; however, if you live in a more northern climate, have dark skin or wear lots of SPF, you may be Vitamin D deficient.

So, I finished the book ‘Lone Survivor’ last night.  O.M.G. I probably cried my way through 2/3 of that book!  It is just heart wrenching, and it makes you loathe the American media.  The book was fabulous.  And remember how I gave a great review to the movie??  Well, the book was 100 times better!  But they always are, right?  Anyway, it is a definite must read.  Put it on your list.

Two more runs and then it’s time for the big 26.2!!

Quote of the Day:

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” -George Eliot

This is totally comfort food.  And since there is another deep freeze going around, you may want to think about making this Broccoli and Cheese Casserole.

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole - CI DSC_4501

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

Ingredients

Topping:

    • 2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • Salt
  • 2 pounds broccoli (about 1 large bunch), florets trimmed to 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and chopped medium
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces Colby cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • Ground black pepper

Directions

1. For the topping: Process the bread and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground, about six 1-second pulses; set aside.

2. For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400*. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the broccoli to the boiling water; cover and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the broccoli and leave it in the colander; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour turns golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and milk; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until large bubbles erupt at the surface and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the colby and cheddar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Spread the broccoli in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or shallow casserole dish of similar size). Whisk the cheese sauce again briefly and pour over the broccoli. Sprinkle with the bread-crumb topping. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated

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