get your exercise, people who exercise, up stairs

The American Heart Association urges Americans to exercise for heart attack prevention. But here’s another reason to lace up your sneakers. A Danish study has found that people who exercise regularly are much more likely to survive if they experience a heart attack.

Heart Attacks in Experimental Animals:

The scientists had noticed that animals allowed plenty of physical activity don’t suffer as much damage to their heart muscles when they have experimental myocardial infarctions. (That’s the technical term for a heart attack, abbreviated MI.) They decided to see whether that link to exercise held up in humans.

Results of the Copenhagen City Heart Study:

More than 14,000 healthy adults enrolled in the Copenhagen City Heart Study when it started in 1976. When the study began, the volunteers answered questions about their levels of leisure time physical activity. They were tracked through 2013.

During more than three decades of the study, 1,664 of these volunteers had a heart attack. Of these, 425 subjects died as a result.

People Who Exercise Are Less Likely to Drop Dead:

People who exercise moderately or intensely were 47 percent less likely to succumb immediately than sedentary individuals. Even those who engaged in light physical activity were 32 percent less likely to die right away if they suffered a MI. The more people exercised, the better their chances of survival.

Unfortunately, the protective effect of exercise went only so far. The investigators found no differences in the numbers of people who went on to develop heart failure after a heart attack.

Ejlersen et al, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, April 11, 2017

As we have written here, exercise and stress relief, along with a healthful diet, are as important as medication in preventing a fatal heart attack.

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