Regular Exercise May Improve Odds of Surviving Heart Attack

Regular Exercise May Improve Odds of Surviving Heart AttackRegular Exercise May Improve Odds of Surviving Heart Attack

Just a few hours a week of moderate exercise may not prevent all heart attacks, but it could make the difference in who survives one, Danish researchers say.

Their study found that regular moderate exercisers were half as likely to die when they had a heart attack, compared to people who were sedentary, researchers write in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“We already know that exercise protects you from heart attack, as well as a number of other beneficial effects,” said senior author Dr. Eva Prescott of the University of Copenhagen and Bispebjerg Hospital.

“The main finding here is that among people who do get a heart attack, the ones who exercise more seem to be more likely to survive a heart attack than people who exercise less,” Prescott said by email to Reuters.

“Exercise is good for you, we know that. These findings confirm that and help us understand why.”

To examine the potential influence of exercise on heart attack survival, researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 people participating in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, none of whom had experienced a heart attack or stroke at the beginning of the study period.

Participants reported on their level of physical activity at the baseline assessment between 1976 and 1978 and researchers followed their health over the years through 2013.

Based on their physical activity per week at the start of the study, participants were categorized into one of three groups: sedentary or light activity for less than two hours; light exercise or two to four hours of walking or equivalent activity; or moderate/high exercise, or greater than two hours of vigorous activity like biking.

Over the study period, 1,664 people had heart attacks and 425 died right away. The average age at which people had a heart attack was 71.

Among those who had a heart attack, the majority, (54%), were in the light exercise category - and were 32% more likely to survive than people who were sedentary. People who were moderate or high exercisers were 47% more likely to survive.

Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure, said Antonio Crisafulli, who studies exercise and heart function at the University of Cagliari in Italy.

“In short, if we have a low blood pressure, the work required to the heart is reduced,” said Crisafulli, who was not involved in the study.

Exercise is not a miracle cure and even active people may face heart attacks, Crisafulli noted, but active people are more likely to survive heart problems.

 “Exercise is one of the best and smartest ways to keep our body healthy and to survive if something wrong happens in our cardiovascular system,” Crisafulli added.

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