You may be tired of hearing that exercise is good for you. And you may wonder if it’s too late to start a routine once you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease. It has been shown many times over that exercise is helpful in both primary prevention (i.e. no known heart disease) and secondary prevention (i.e. had a diagnosis of heart disease or a cardiac event and want to prevent another).
A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at over 15,000 patients to see if the level of activity mattered for secondary prevention in those who were felt to have ‘stable’ coronary artery disease. This STABILITY trial was designed to study a medication but gathered this data from self-reported questions. About half reported exercise of only mild intensity. Interestingly, the most active were more likely to be current smokers and less likely to have diabetes, chronic renal disease or plaques in multiple coronary vessels.
Greater physical activity was associated with lower cardiac and non-cardiac related deaths. The risk for heart attacks did not differ between the least active and most active, but the death rate was decreased significantly with more exercise. The benefit was greatest in those at greatest risk of bad outcomes. In a large trial, there is potential for unexpected factors to affect results; as noted above, the patient populations were not identical, but in total, the exercise seems to have made a significant difference. For someone who is sedentary, this could mean even adding just a 10 – 20 minute walk to your daily routine.
Needless to say, the level of your activity should be determined by your cardiologist following a diagnosis of coronary artery disease; and you should check with your physician if you have not exercised lately. A cardiac rehab program is often prescribed as primary or secondary prevention for those who are at risk of heart attacks. It is common for people to follow this program briefly after their health scare – a time we refer to as a ‘honeymoon period’, and then slack off. This article supports the idea that exercise should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle that can prevent future events and can help increase longevity. Not to mention that it’s good for control of blood sugar, weight and mental health.
Physical Activity Benefits Patients with Stable Coronary Disease
Stewart RAH et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017 Oct 3.