Exercising regularly is a key strategy in preventing heart disease. But the story doesn’t end there. A growing number of statistics link physical activity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that regular exercise leads to heart-healthy habits. This can prevent conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Use these findings to inspire you to keep up an active lifestyle, with guidance from your doctor.
Aging, exercise, and heart disease
In general, as people age they become less physically active. But as we become older, we need more regular exercise, not less. The AHA notes that 69 percent of all adults are obese or overweight, and that number continues to increase.
In 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics found that about one in three adults who’d visited a doctor in the past year had been advised to start or continue an exercise program. That’s an increase of about 10 percent from 2000.
Older adults aged 45 to 85 were more likely to be advised by their doctors to exercise. Among adults aged 85 years and older, the percentage receiving advice to exercise nearly doubled over the past decade. Adults with conditions like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure were also told to exercise more.
Physical activity helps prevent bone loss, increase muscle strength, and improve coordination and balance. Studies have shown that increased levels of physical activity reduce the risk of many aging-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
For people with heart disease, exercise can reduce the risk of:
- dying from heart disease
- having a nonfatal heart attack
- requiring procedures such as heart bypass surgery or angioplasty
And for people without heart disease, regular exercise can decrease the chance of developing it.
Physical fitness lowers heart disease risk
The CDC reports that heart disease is the number one cause of death for most people in the United States. Every year, close to 525,000 Americans have their first heart attack. In addition, 210,000 who have already experienced a heart attack have another.
The CDC identifies physical inactivity as a risk factor for heart disease. Only a little more than 20 percent of adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure. It can also improve your cholesterol levels. The AHA recommends 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week. In addition, a recent study suggests aerobic and dynamic resistance exercise are effective alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure.
The AHA also reports that active people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and chronic diseases like heart disease are less likely to die prematurely than inactive people with these conditions.
A 2013 study noted that higher levels of physical activity were associated with a 21 percent reduction in coronary heart disease (CHD) events for men and a 29 percent reduction of CHD events in women. Researchers concluded that higher fitness levels predict lower death rates and complications associated with cardiovascular disease.
What you can do
Ready to get moving? Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
If you have risk factors for heart disease or have had a heart attack or cardiovascular event before, your doctor may know of specific exercises that are the best for you.
The benefits of exercise are long lasting and can lead to improved blood circulation, better cholesterol levels, lowered blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart disease.