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Bicycle Your Way to Avoid Heart Disease

In Denmark, middle-aged people who travel by bicycle are less likely to have heart attacks. People with diabetes live longer if they cycle.
Bicycle Your Way to Avoid Heart Disease
Bicycle rider cyclist man on bicycle very popular means of transoirt in Netherlands in street of Delft, Netherlands

Spending time on a bicycle can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, according to a Danish study (Circulation, October 31, 2016).

Danes Traveling by Bicycle:

The researchers collected data on nearly 54,000 people, including 45,000 who biked regularly for fun or transport. The volunteers were between 50 and 65 years old when the study began.

Fewer Heart Attacks Among Regular Bikers:

During the next 20 years, there were 2,892 heart attacks in the group. The bikers were 11 to 18 percent less likely to experience a heart attack than those who did not bike. And those who began biking within the first five years of the study had a 25 percent lower chance of a heart disease diagnosis than those who did not bike at all.

This study doesn’t prove that getting on a bicycle will save your heart, but it does suggest it might have benefits. It could also be fun!

People with Diabetes Also Benefit from Using a Bicycle:

People with diabetes are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature death. A new study involving 10 western European countries reveals that cycling is beneficial for people with diabetes (JAMA Internal Medicine, July 19, 2021).

In this epidemiological research (EPIC), nearly 7500 adults had diabetes. Over the course of 111,000 person-years of follow-up, those who regularly rode a bicycle were 24% less likely to die compared to those who did not ride. Cardiovascular mortality was also reduced.

This study reinforces previous research from Denmark showing a 40% reduction in mortality statistics among cyclists. An editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine notes that riding a bicycle has environmental as well as health benefits.

The authors conclude that

“it may contribute directly to longer and healthier lives.”

Getting in the Cycling Habit:

Substantial evidence shows that exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease. Finding an exercise you like and are willing to do every day is the first step to cultivating this healthy habit. For those who enjoy getting on a bicycle, it is a great way to be less sedentary. We urge cyclists to find safe places to ride and wear good bike helmets.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Blond K et al, "Prospective study of bicycling and risk of coronary heart disease in Danish men and women." Circulation, October 31, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.024651
  • Ried-Larsen M et al, "Association of cycling with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality among persons with diabetes: The European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study." JAMA Internal Medicine, July 19, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.3836
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