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Jan 10, 2014

Exercise Reduces Risk of Cardiac Events in Heart Patients

High-risk patients who add in about 20 minutes of walking each day can lower their risk for a cardiac event by 10%.

We know that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease, but it’s just as important for patients already living with or at risk for heart disease, according a recent study.

Published in The Lancet, this study enrolled more than 9,300 adults worldwide to explore the relationship between exercise and risk for heart attackstroke and death. All participants were pre-diabetic (had higher than normal blood sugar but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes) and either had additional risk factors for heart disease or had already been diagnosed with heart disease.

Adults with pre-diabetes are considered to have especially high cardiovascular risk, which is why researchers chose to include this population of individuals in their study. Many adults are well on their way to developing diabetes and if something as simple as exercise can help reduce risk of complications, it could save lives and improve quality of life for individuals around the world.

After receiving support on increasing physical activity and achieving a healthy weight, participants were followed for an average of six years. During this time, researchers collected information on subjects’ physical activity levels using pedometers and tracked specific outcomes, including heart attack, stroke and death.

During the six years of follow-up, researchers tracked a total of 531 cardiovascular events and found that cardiovascular risk varied greatly by physical activity level. The more active participants were, the lower their risk was for heart attack, stroke and even death. And compared to those who didn’t change their physical activity levels during the study, those who took steps to increase their activity levels had significantly lower risk for cardiac events. In fact, every increase in 2,000 steps per day (about 20 minutes of walking each day) lowered risk for a cardiac event by 10%.

Findings are extremely encouraging, as walking tends to be the most common and preferred choice of exercise around the world. Also, simple interventions that utilize pedometers to encourage increased physical activity have been proven to work. Authors encourage further research on the subject and hope that similar interventions are used to help patients at particularly high risk for heart attack and stroke reduce their risk of complications.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What role does physical activity play in health and nutrition?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. Based on the high rates of obesity, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that most Americans reduce their food intake and increase their physical activity level. Even people who are overweight can derive health benefits from engaging in some level of activity.

    According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
  • How does physical activity improve heart health?

  • Physical activity promotes many health benefits, such as weight control, blood pressure reduction and stress reduction. Together, these health benefits translate to improved cardiovascular health.


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