The Impact of Exercise on Cardiovascular Complications
While the benefits of exercise are well known, a recent study presented at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in November provided some compelling data regarding the effect of exercise on cardiovascular risk. Researchers at the New York Medical College studied individuals with an average age of 70 years who were experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath and had no medical history of heart disease. They found that individuals with lower exercise capacities (defined by the maximum amount of exercise one can perform and the amount of oxygen necessary to do it – often measured using a standardized treadmill test) were 13% more likely to experience myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart), 20% more likely to experience coronary artery disease (narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart – often leading to a heart attack), 25% less likely to have normal coronary arteries, and 9% more likely to die of a cardiovascular event (i.e., stroke, heart attack). Of most interest was the dramatic benefit for individuals with diabetes: those who have higher exercise capacities have a 48% lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or death. While the study shows the importance of exercise in preventing cardiovascular disease, it also emphasizes the importance of vigorous exercise - vigorous exercise, such as hiking, rowing, dancing, bicycling 10-16 mph, or running 6-10 mph, helps increase exercise capacity. So as we begin to make our annual New Year’s resolutions, there is good reason to have “vigorous exercise” at the top of the list.