Exercise proves beneficial for heart attack recovery

Exercise is not only good for maintaining one’s health, but it is also helpful for recovering from a heart attack. According to a study recently published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who lead an active lifestyle are more likely to survive a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, as opposed to their less active counterparts.

A prospective cohort study, or when similar individuals are studied and observed over a period of time, was conducted in Copenhagen to investigate if there was a correlation between exercising and the chance of heart attack survival. There were 14,223 participants in the study who were evaluated from 1976 to 1978.  Of these participants, 1,664 suffered heart attacks. The participants were both male and female, ranging from the ages of 20 to 93. They were randomly solicited from the Danish civil registration system in Copenhagen.

The participants submitted information on their alcohol intakes, body mass indexes, educations, family histories of heart disease, health conditions, incomes, lifestyles, marital statuses, smoking histories and other medical data as well as having blood tests taken. The non-medical information was vital to include because it could have produced a pattern or trend, establishing a baseline so that their future health and conditions could be compared to the point where they initially started. The baseline of each participant was not only used to compare the participant’s health to his or her past but to his or her counterpart as well.

The results were that 11.69 percent of the participants had heart attacks later on, averaging at the age of 70.9 years old. Of that percentage, 25.5 percent had fatal heart attacks. The researchers analyzed the lifestyles of the participants who suffered a heart attack and noticed there was a strong relationship between who survived and how active their lifestyle was. Participants who had light or moderate activity were 32 percent less likely to die from a heart attack, and participants who had high physical activity were 47 percent less likely to die from a heart attack. However, even if the participant survived, they were still at risk of heart failure, albeit a lower risk.

People who exercise more are believed to suffer from a milder heart attack, thus having less damage done to the heart. It is also thought that active participants have developed “collateral blood vessels” which helps the heart circulate the blood, despite its damage.

Collateral blood vessels are alternative routes for blood to flow if there is damage present. Since blood can still flow despite the damaged area in the heart, the rate of survival is higher.

This was the first study conducted with humans as participants, since previous studies were conducted on animals. In addition, there needs to be more research and studies conducted before the findings are confirmed. It should also be noted that, because this study took place over decades, survival might have also been contingent upon other hidden factors such as the advancement of technology and medicine throughout the years.