Exercise Makes a Difference for Heart Health
Lack of exercise and excess weight are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Although people lack the power to change some factors, such as family history, they can use exercise and weight loss as a primary prevention measure.
Results of a large study show that exercise can help ward off heart disease. Researchers studied the effects of weight and exercise in more than 20,000 men over a period of 20.5 years. The subjects, who all began the study without coronary heart disease, were divided into three groups: lean, overweight and obese.
The study found that weight and lack of exercise each act alone to bring on heart disease. In fact, carrying any extra weight at all adds to risk.
- Weight. Compared to lean, active menthe obese and inactive subjects increased their risk of heart failure 293 percent. The risk increased only 168 percent when obese men exercised.
- Frequency of activity. Subjects who exercised less than five times a week reduced their risk of heart failure by an average 18 percent, no matter what their weight. Those who worked out five to seven times a week, 36 percent.
- Combination of weight and activity level. Among men who were both overweight and inactive, risk went up 78 percent. When these men exercised, the rate went up only 49 percent.
Regardless of the level of activity, the non-lean subjects had a higher heart failure risk. Even men on the border between lean and overweight were at added risk. For men who were over 5'10" tall, each 7 pounds of extra weight increased heart risk by 11 percent.
Several medical associations recommend that healthy people exercise 30 minutes most days of the week. Brisk walking is one option. It's key to ask a doctor before starting.
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Sources: American Heart Association, Harvard University Medical School, National Institutes of Health