Maintaining an Active Lifestyle Even After a Heart Attack Reduces Risk of Death
Tue, April 20, 2021

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle Even After a Heart Attack Reduces Risk of Death

Keeping an active lifestyle after recovering from a heart attack lowers their risk of dying, according to a new study. / Photo by Jozef Polc via 123rf

 

People who have had a heart attack still have a chance to reduce their risk of death. Keeping an active lifestyle after recovering from a heart attack lowers their risk of dying, according to a new study. Exercising is generally safe for most people as it promotes a healthy way of living, and heart attack survivors can reap these benefits even just by brisk-walking for 30 minutes a day.

Researchers from Harvard University say the results of the study add to the growing evidence that regular exercise is a crucial part of maintaining wellness after recovering from a life-threatening event like a heart attack.

 

Benefits of exercising before and after a heart attack

The study was conducted entirely on men, wherein the researchers analyzed the data of over 1,500 male heart attack survivors and they were followed for about 4 years as part of the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

Analysis of data showed that men who increased their physical activity after a heart attack were 27 percent less likely to die due to any cause compared to those who did not raise their level of exercise. However, health information website Healthline noted that the reduced risk only held for men who continued to exercise at a higher level over a few years.

"Those who only participated in exercise shortly after the heart attack and then petered out did not have these survival benefits," explained Victoria Shin, chair of the cardiology division at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and who was not involved in the study.

Healthline adds that the researchers classified an exercise as a high level if men did so at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity—the minimum level according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Moreover, men benefitted more if they were high-level exercisers before a heart attack and were able to continue that level after an incident. These men are 39 percent less likely to die from any cause compare to low-level exercisers.

Walking at least 30 minutes a day—210 minutes a week—following a heart attack event also lessens the risk of death by 29 percent. Men can further lower the risk if they walk fast, the health information website notes.

 

 

Similar results

While the study did not include women, the results are similar to a previous study conducted on postmenopausal women in which it was found that exercising reduces the risk of heart failure among older women. The said research looked into the data on 137,303 postmenopausal women, a third of whom had high blood pressure and other risk factors like diabetes or smoking habit.

It also monitored the women for 14 years, after which 2,523 women developed heart failure. The research found that women who got at least some physical activity are less likely to develop heart failure by 11 percent compared to those who didn't exercise at all, according to Reuters.

The news agency adds that participants who had the highest level of physical activity reduced the possibility of heart failure by 35 percent.

A Swedish study published in January also showed similar results of heart attack survivors lowering their risk of death by increasing their level of exercise. The results of this study showed that patients who were physically active following a heart attack were 71 percent less likely to die.

Meanwhile, those who were inactive at first but eventually increased their activity levels lowered their risk of death by 59 percent during the four-year study compared to patients who remained inactive. Even patients who got at least a little exercise still saw reduced chances of dying by 44 percent.

 

 

Importance of physical activities

All three studies showed how maintaining an active lifestyle can help a person live longer even after suffering from a heart attack. The results serve as a reminder that, even after such an event, it is never too late to start exercising. However, experts note that it's important that one should make regular physical activity a part of their life even before a heart attack.

Healthline says this is particularly true for people who have risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or obesity. At least 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week is recommended to control these risk factors, along with a proper diet and medication.

But even a small amount of exercise will do the trick, according to Trine Moholdt, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

"Higher doses of physical activity or exercise are more protective, but every level of physical activity is better than being inactive," Moholdt told Reuters, adding that walking is the best option for older individuals. She also recommended that older people do activities that can help them maintain their muscle strength and muscle mass.

Not only does a healthy lifestyle reduce the risk of heart attacks, but it also lowers the chances of dying if such an event occurs.

 

 Trine Moholdt, a researcher, recommended that older people do activities that can help them maintain their muscle strength and muscle mass. / Photo by Jozef Polc via 123rf