The old school of thought among doctors was to take it easy for the rest of your life after a heart attack rather than increase exercise.
But this way of thinking has gone out with the bathwater. A study that tracked over 22,000 patients found that those who were more physically active after their heart attack halved their risk of death within four years.
“It is well known that physically active people are less likely to have a heart attack and more likely to live longer,” points out lead author Dr. Örjan Ekblom, in the 2018 report. “However, we did not know the impact of exercise on people after a heart attack.”
Exercise and Survival After Heart Attack
Levels of physical activity were documented six to 10 weeks, and then 12 months, after the heart attack.
Subjects were asked how many times that they had exercised for half an hour or longer during the previous seven days.
They were grouped as either constantly inactive, reduced activity, increased activity, or constantly active.
Additional Study Features
• Age, smoking, gender and clinical factors were adjusted for.
• 1,087 subjects died during an average follow-up period of 4.2 years.
Results take it easy
Compared to the patients who were “constantly inactive,” the risk of mortality was 59 percent lower for those who were in the “constantly active” category.
Risk of death was 37 percent and 51 percent lower for subjects in the reduced activity and increased activity groups, respectively.
Clearly you can see that exercise or physical activity lowers the death rate after a heart attack, and that taking it easy or becoming sedentary is detrimental.
“Our study shows that patients can reduce their risk of death by becoming physically active after a heart attack,” says Dr. Ekblom in the report.
“Exercising twice or more a week should be automatically advocated for heart attack patients in the same way they receive advice to stop smoking, improve diet, and reduce stress,” says Dr. Ekblom in the report.
The recommendation applies to all heart attack patients: smokers, nonsmokers, small heart attacks, big heart attacks.
Study Limitation take it easy
Type of exercise was not documented. Thus, it is not known if there is any particular kind of activity that is especially beneficial following a heart attack.
Should the activity be strength training? Aerobic in nature? A combination? More research is needed to determine these specifics.