Utah marathon runner puts added emphasis on heart health for the holidays

Dec 15, 2023, 6:05 PM | Updated: 6:10 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For the past decade, Chuck Tabaracci has been running marathons all over the world. However, earlier this year, the 69-year-old started experiencing shortness of breath.

“I just thought, well, I’m getting older,” Tabaracci said.

But his symptoms only grew worse.

“I started to get dizzy,” Tabaracci said. “And I’d never had that happen before.”

Tabaracci’s doctor discovered a heart murmur and 85% valve blockage, which required him to get bypass surgery and a new valve.

“He was surprised that I didn’t collapse somewhere,” Tabaracci said.

Chuck Tabaracci running the Miami Marathon. (Courtesy: Chuck Tabaracci) Chuck Tabaracci running the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland. (Courtesy: Chuck Tabaracci) Chuck Tabaracci in front of The Treasury (made famous by the Indiana Jones movies), the starting point for the Petra Marathon in Jordan. (Courtesy: Chuck Tabaracci)

Tabaracci has been recovering at home, taking daily walks, easing his way back into running, and continuing to watch his diet during this time of year.

“My downfall is sweets,” he said. “And the holidays are like, ooh, look at that.”

Dr. Jeffrey Anderson with Intermountain Health said although there are many delicious foods and goodies this time of year, moderation is the best course of action.

“Yes, you’re going to eat your holiday meal, but be moderate and maybe stop when you’re 70% full,” he said. “Avoid especially those that are high fat, high sugar, high salt.”

Anderson said the risk of a heart attack goes up 25% during the holidays, which is why it’s vital to eat healthy, limit alcohol, exercise, get enough rest, and reduce stress.

“Put things in perspective,” he said. “Get the help you need. Realize that it’s okay if little things go wrong.”

Another risk factor? Denial. Anderson said even if someone was having heart attack symptoms, they may be likely to ignore it because they don’t want to disrupt holiday plans.

But if you notice something’s wrong, don’t wait.

“We need to pay attention, especially during this time of the year,” Anderson said.

Tabaracci is echoing that same message.

“Go to the doctor,” Tabaracci said. “I wish I would have gone sooner.”

For Tabaracci, his experience forced him to slow down so he could enjoy a heart-healthy holiday with his loved ones.

“Stop being in a rush,” he said. “Enjoy what you’ve got. Family is number one.”

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Utah marathon runner puts added emphasis on heart health for the holidays