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Here's how middle-aged people, especially women, can avoid a heart attack

AHA News: Here's how middle-aged people-especially women-can avoid a heart attack

Physical fitness is good for the heart, brain and overall health. But the specific type called cardiorespiratory fitness can help predict the chances of a heart attack, especially for women, a new study suggests.

Higher cardiorespiratory fitness translated for lower risk of heart attack, with women benefiting most. The results indicate that "cardiorespiratory fitness can be used as a risk calculator for the first heart," said Rasheed Scheidel, lead author of a Norwegian study published on Wednesday Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Measurement of cardiorespiratory ability will tell you which group you are in," said Shidell, a researcher at the Department of Public Health and Nursing at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.

Cardiorespiratory fitness reflects the body's ability to transmit oxygen during sustained physical activity. It can be measured using VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise. Higher VO2 max shows higher cardiorespiratory capacity.

Relying on data from one of the largest health studies ever undertaken, Shidell and his team assessed cardiorespiratory convenience for more than 26,000 Norwegians, who on average had 56 years of age and who had no heart disease when the study began. The researchers followed their health for up to 15 years.

Because VO2 max results were not available for all participants, researchers estimate cardiorespiratory fitness based on the length and intensity of physical activity every week. In women, those with a high degree of cardiorespiratory fitness were 25% less likely to have a first heart attack than those with low levels, while men with high levels of fitness had a 10% lower likelihood of suffering from a heart attack than those with low fitness group.

People who want to increase cardiorespiratory fitness should strive to be physically active for at least 150 minutes each week and minimize time spent as sedentary, said Shiddel.

But that does not necessarily mean spending hours in the hall every day. "Those who are slightly active will still benefit," he said. "It's better to have something from nothing."

It's unclear why exercise affects men and women differently, says Dr. Aron L. Baggysh, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. But he warned not to put too much weight on the finding that women received greater protection from men.

"The home message for this study should not be that fitness is not important for men," says Baggysh, who wrote an editor in addition to the study. "The message should be that you are better, the less likely you will have the first heart attack."

Previous studies have consistently shown that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with fewer heart problems. However, most previous studies either did not include women or did not report the findings by sex, Shigdel said, despite the fact that heart disease behaves differently in women versus men. For example, women aged 45 and older are likely to die within one year of the first heart attack than men of the same age.

Most studies also looked only at whether fitness is associated with a higher risk of death than cardiovascular disease, and not from a first heart attack – an important difference because heart attacks are not always fatal. "Our results are better suited to assess the risk of disease," the authors said.

In terms of cardiovascular risk, Baggish warned not to focus on physical fitness, with the exclusion of other factors. It is equally important, he said, to give up smoking, to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, to keep away from processed foods and to avoid stress.

"If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other risk factors, you can not get rid of problems," he said. "No one can exercise enough to gain complete immunity from heart disease".

The American Heart Association covers the health of the heart and brain. Not all of the views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyrights are owned or stored by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights reserved. If you have questions or comments on this story, please send it to [email protected]

Here's how people of middle age, especially women, can avoid a heart attack (2019, April 17)
received April 17, 2019

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