Early aerobic fitness tied to lower heart attack rates

By Sheryl Kay • Published: April 2nd, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s never too late to start some type of exercise regimen, even if it’s just a few times a week. But new research shows the younger we start the more likely we are to avoid heart problems … even 20 years later.

Just published in the European Heart Journal, the study involved analyzing 15 years of health records for almost 750,000 men about to enter the draft. As part of the induction process, each man was thoroughly examined, and had a complete physical and an aerobic fitness test.

Researchers then tracked these men for 34 years by monitoring a national health registry to see which of them subsequently suffered a heart attack. Those who scored lowest on the aerobic fitness evaluation were two times more likely to have a heart attack later in life than the men who were most fit.

Specifically, the researchers discovered that increasing aerobic fitness by 15 percent resulted in an 18 percent decrease in each man’s heart attack risk.

However, the heaviest men in the group still had a 71 percent higher chance of having a heart attack than the thinnest men, even if those thin men didn’t do well on fitness scores. This shows that exercise and weight really do matter.

Nonetheless, the researchers hesitated to say there is a cause-and-effect relationship between exercise and heart attack risk. Yet they said good fitness and a healthy weight definitely yield long-term positive outcomes. Parents and schools should encourage kids to eat healthy and devote some time each week to aerobic fitness, such as walking, biking or swimming. Even dancing to a good beat helps keep your heart healthy.