According to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, those who regularly exercise are less likely to die from a sudden heart attack. This study adds to the mounting evidence of the benefits of leading an active lifestyle.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, so prevention has become a public health priority. Evidence of the health benefits of physical activity in reducing the risk of heart attack and death has been well documented. This study adds to the information by focusing on the effect of an active versus sedentary lifestyle on the immediate course of a heart attack. This was previously an area with little information.
For the study, researchers used data from 10 European cohort studies, which included healthy participants with various physical activity levels. There was a total of 28,140 individuals who had a heart attack during the follow-up. Participants were categorized according to their weekly leisure-time physical activity as sedentary, low, moderate, or high.
Researchers analyzed the association between activity level and death risk due to a heart attack within 28 days of the incident. The results were adjusted for age, sex, blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, BMI, blood cholesterol, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, and heart disease history.
A total of 4,976 participants died within 28 days after their heart attack. Of these, 3,101 died instantly. Researchers found that overall, those with a higher level of physical activity were associated with a lower risk of instant and 28-day death from heart attack. Patients who had engaged in moderate and high levels of leisure-time physical activity had a 33% and 45% lower risk of instant death compared to sedentary individuals. The relationship with low activity was too low to reach statistical significance.
Study author Dr. Kim Wadt Hansen said: “Almost 18% of patients with a heart attack died within 28 days, substantiating the severity of this condition. We found an immediate survival benefit of prior physical activity in the setting of a heart attack, a benefit which seemed preserved at 28 days.”
Any Amount of Exercise Can Be Beneficial
Researchers did note that even a low amount of leisure-time physical activity may be beneficial against fatal heart attacks. Statistic uncertainty just prevented them from drawing any firm conclusions at this point.
The 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention suggest that healthy adults of all ages perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. This study supports these recommendations to reduce the risk of death after a sudden heart attack.