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Exercise Helps People with Heart Disease

A recent study shows that stable angina patients who exercise are less likely to die from heart attacks (J Am Coll Cardiol, Oct 3, 2017;70(14):1689-1700). Stable angina means that you may or may not have chest discomfort or pain at rest, but pain occurs or worsens when you exert yourself such as walking up stairs, walking faster or lifting something heavy. Usually the pain worsens when you try to exercise. The study followed 5,486 patients with stable angina for an average of 3.7 years. Those who exercised regularly were 30 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who did not exercise, and the more they exercised, the greater their survival rate. The editorial accompanying the article recommended that walking 10 minutes a day briskly or 15–20 minutes slowly can reduce chances for dying by almost one third.

This study agrees with the findings from an earlier review of 63 studies that included 14,486 people suffering from heart disease, aged 47 to 71 years, which showed that exercise was associated with reduced chances of hospitalization for heart disease or dying from a heart attack (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Jan 5, 2016). Another review of 33 trials of 4740 people showed that people in heart failure who exercised had a reduced heart attack rate and death rate after one year, and a reduced number of heart failure-specific hospitalizations. They also showed improved exercise capacity and quality of life. However, this review did not find a reduced rate of heart attacks before one year (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2014 Apr 27;(4):CD003331).

Every year, more than 790,000 Americans suffer heart attacks. Of these cases, 580,000 are suffering their first attack while 210,000 are having repeat attacks (Report From the American Heart Association, 2017;135:e1–e458). Exercise helps to prevent and treat heart attacks, and reduces the two most common risk factors: overweight and diabetes.

Caution:  Exercise can cause a heart attack in a person who has blocked or narrowed arteries. Check with your doctor before starting or increasing your exercise program. See How to Start an Exercise Program and Exercisers Have More Stable Plaques

November 12th, 2017
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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