Study finds patients in the best shape 40 percent less likely to die
Being in good shape could increase your chances of surviving a first heart attack, according to a new study.
“We knew fitter people generally live longer, but we now have evidence linking fitness to survival after a first heart attack,” said study author Michael Blaha, M.D., a heart specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “It makes sense, but we believe this is the first time there is documentation of that association.”
[Also read: Survive a Heart Attack With Strong Social Support]
For the study, researchers examined medical records of more than 2,000 people, average age 62, who had done a treadmill stress test before they suffered a first heart attack. The tests provide a metabolic equivalent (MET) score, which ranges from 1 to 12, with 12 being the most physically fit.
Participants with MET scores of 10 or higher were 40 percent less likely to die after a first heart attack than other participants. And one-third of participants with a MET score of 6 or less died within a year of their first heart attack. Overall, each whole number increase in MET score was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of death after a first heart attack, said the researchers from Johns Hopkins and the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
“Our data suggest doctors working with patients who have cardiovascular risk factors should be saying, ‘Mr. Jones, you need to start an exercise program now to improve your fitness and chances of survival, should you experience a heart attack,’” said study author Clinton Brawner, a clinical exercise physiologist at the Henry Ford Health System.
[Also read: Hit the Weight Room!]
Only an association was seen between MET scores and risk of death after a first heart attack, not a cause-and-effect connection. But, Dr. Blaha said, the study adds to the mountain of research that suggests regular exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and death from all causes.
According to the American Heart Association, about 525,000 people in the United States have a first-time heart attack each year. African Americans are at increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events compared with their white counterparts.