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Exercise can improve heart health at any age

New research from the European Society of Cardiology gives hope to older people that it is never too late to start exercising and increase longevity. The study, led by Dr. Nathalia Gonzalez of the University of Bern, shows that getting active later in life can have major heart health benefits. 

“These encouraging findings highlight how patients with coronary heart disease may benefit by preserving or adopting a physically active lifestyle,” explained Dr. Gonzalez.

The researchers analyzed data from 33,576 patients who suffered from coronary heart disease with an average age of 62.5 years old. On average, follow-up exams were conducted every 7.2 years. 

Activity levels in the patients were assessed via a questionnaire and were divided into four different categories: inactive over time, active over time, increased activity over time, decreased activity over time. 

Unsurprisingly, patients who were inactive over time were the most likely to die of cardiovascular disease. They were also more likely to die prematurely from any cause. 

Patients who were active over time were 50 percent less likely to die, while patients who increased activity over time were 45 percent less likely to die. 

When it comes to heart health, similar results were observed. The risk for cardiovascular mortality was 51 percent lower among those who remained active, and 27 percent lower among patients who increased their activity. 

“The results show that continuing an active lifestyle over the years is associated with the greatest longevity. However, patients with heart disease can overcome prior years of inactivity and obtain survival benefits by taking up exercise later in life,” said Dr. Gonzalez.

“On the other hand, the benefits of activity can be weakened or even lost if activity is not maintained. The findings illustrate the benefits to heart patients of being physically active, regardless of their previous habits.”

In case you needed extra motivation to get outside or hit the gym, remember, years of your life could depend on it. 

The research was presented at ESC Congress 2021.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer


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