Exercise following a heart attack could be life-saving

Exercise following a heart attack could be life-saving
"Our study shows that patients can reduce their risk of death by becoming physically active after a heart attack"

Being more physically active after suffering a heart attack can halve the risk of dying within four years, according to new research presented at a European Society of Cardiology congress.

The study followed over 22,000 patients in Sweden who had a heart attack and it was found that those who became more physically active after the attack halved the risk of death within four years.

Levels of physical activity were reported 6-10 weeks and 12 months after the myocardial infarction. The difference between answers was considered a change in physical activity over the year following the attack.

Dr Örjan Ekblom, associate professor, Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Stockholm, Sweden, said: “It is well known that physically active people are less likely to have a heart attack and more likely to live longer.

“However, we did not know the impact of exercise on people after a heart attack.”

What did the study find?

During the average follow up of 4.2 years, 1,087 patients died. Researchers analysed the association between the four categories of physical activity and death, after an adjustment for age, sex, smoking and clinical factors.

Compared to the patients constantly inactive, the risk of death was as follows:

• Reduced activity – 37% lower;
• Increased activity – 51% lower; and
• Constantly active – 59% lower

Ekblom added: “Our study shows that patients can reduce their risk of death by becoming physically active after a heart attack. Patients who reported being physically active 6-10 weeks after the heart attack but became inactive afterwards seem to have a carry-over benefit. But, of course, the benefits for active people are even greater if they remain physically active.”

Does it apply to all heart attack patients?

Ekblom said the study provided additional evidence for healthcare professionals and policymakers to systematically promote physical activity in myocardial infarction patients.

He continued: “Exercising twice or more a week should be automatically advocated for heart attack patients in the same way that they receive advice to stop smoking, improve diet, and reduce stress.

“Our study shows that this advice applies to all heart attack patients. Exercise reduced the risk of death in patients with large and small myocardial infarctions, and for smokers and non-smokers, for example.”

The study did not investigate the type of exercise patients undertook.

Source: European Society of Cardiology 

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