HOUSTON (March 25, 2015)

Running a marathon is an achievement that less than one percent of people in the world can say they have accomplished. One interventional cardiologist affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center/UTHealth wasn’t satisfied with just one. Dr. Akira Nishikawa recently completed his 100th marathon in Auckland, New Zealand, and he’s planning a future marathon in Zurich, Switzerland.

Prior to his first big race, Dr. Nishikawa had never even run a half marathon. In December of 2000, he was approached by a friend who wanted to run a marathon in Hawaii, and Dr. Nishikawa decided to join him. The support and connection he felt with fellow runners drove Dr. Nishikawa to participate in his second marathon shortly thereafter, which took place in Houston. Now, over 100 marathons and 2700 miles later, he’s still going strong and has no plans to retire from long-distance running any time soon.

“In a marathon, you can give up at any time,” said Dr. Nishikawa. “But if you push yourself to just keep going, you will make it to the end.” He likes to use it as a metaphor to encourage the mentality of his patients, saying, “You can give up, or you can keep going and get healthy. Anyone can do it – it’s mind over matter.”

For non-runners, it might be hard to imagine the training and dedication required to endure a marathon, much less 100 of them. But for Dr. Nishikawa, it’s much more than just physical exercise and a way to stay healthy – it’s an excuse to travel and connect with new people and different cultures. His passion for marathons has taken him to cities all over the world including San Francisco, Tokyo and Athens, just to name a few. For him, it’s not just a race to the finish line; it’s a race to adventure.

Dr. Nishikawa is the first to recognize, however, that running marathons isn’t for everyone; there are many different ways one can be active. But he does stress the importance of both diet and exercise for everyday heart health. Here are his top three tips:

  • Cut down on the sweets – sugar causes inflammation in the body.
  • Cut down on the carbohydrates as well – processed carbohydrates are among the leading causes of the rising obesity rate in the U.S. today.
  • And make time for exercising. Sometimes that means sacrificing time spent doing other things you enjoy, but the end result is worth it – heart healthiness leads to a happier, longer life.

“No one else can make you do anything. No one can make you forgo those french fries or get out of bed in the morning 30 minutes early to go to the gym – not your family, not your friends, not even your physician. You have to be responsible and take charge of your own heart health,” said Dr. Nishikawa. “But I can tell you this: when you’re healthy, you’re happy and when you’re happy, you can influence and encourage others to be their best as well. I can’t think of a better pursuit than that.”