Turns out, becoming physically active after a heart attack can save your life.
According to a study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology, becoming more physically active after a heart attack halved the risk of death within four years.
"It is well known that physically active people are less likely to have a heart attack and more likely to live longer," said lead author Ãrjan Ekblom. "However, we did not know the impact of exercise on people after a heart attack."
This study assessed the association between physical activity and survival after a heart attack. It included 22,227 patients in Sweden who had a myocardial infarction between 2005 and 2013.
Levels of physical activity were reported 6-10 weeks and 12 months after the heart attack. The difference between answers was considered a change in physical activity over the year following the heart attack.
On both occasions, patients were asked how many times they had exercised for 30 minutes or longer during the previous seven days. Patients were categorised as constantly inactive, reduced activity, increased activity, or constantly active.
A total of 1,087 patients died during an average follow-up of 4.2 years. The researchers analysed the association between the four categories of physical activity and death, after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, and clinical factors.
Compared to patients who were constantly inactive, the risk of death was 37 percent, 51 percent, and 59 percent lower in patients in the categories of reduced activity, increased activity, or constantly active, respectively.
Ekblom said, "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 to 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."
Ekblom said that the study provided additional evidence for healthcare professionals and policy makers to systematically promote physical activity in heart attack patients.
He further noted, "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," he continued. "Exercise reduced the risk of death in patients with large and small myocardial infractions, and for smokers and non-smokers, for example."
The study has been presented at EuroPrevent 2018, a European Society of Cardiology Congress.
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