ACSM study reports that three hours of vigorous exercise can reduce heart attack risk in men
INDIANAPOLIS – Men concerned with heart health should add vigorous exercise to their to-do list. New research published today by the American College of Sports Medicine indicates that three hours per week of vigorous exercise is enough to cut a man’s risk of heart attack by 22 percent.
Researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed physical activity levels and biomarkers in 1,239 male participants of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS). Biomarkers included cholesterol as well as markers of inflammation and insulin sensitivity for each participant. A semiannual questionnaire was used to collect information on average time spent on leisure-time physical activity per week.
“We studied vigorous exercise because of its stronger association with coronary heart disease,” said Andrea Chomistek, Sc.D., the lead author of the study. “While we discovered that vigorous-intensity exercise decreases a man’s risk of heart attack, we also were able to partially determine why. The benefits of exercise on a man’s levels of HDL-C, or ‘good’ cholesterol, account for approximately 38 percent of that decrease. Other important markers included vitamin D, apolipoprotein B and hemoglobin A1c.”
Among 18,225 men who provided blood samples, 454 participants suffered a nonfatal heart attack or died from coronary heart disease during the study period of 1994-2004. After study exclusions, 412 men with coronary heart disease were matched to 827 controls based on age, smoking status and date of blood donation.
“As expected, traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors were more common among cases than controls,” said Chomistek. “Men who suffered a nonfatal heart attack or died from coronary heart disease had less ‘good’ cholesterol, more ‘bad’ cholesterol and were more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”
Despite identifying biomarkers that explain some of the association between physical activity and lower risk of coronary heart disease, Chomistek called for more research on other mechanisms by which exercise affects cardiovascular risk.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks heart disease as the nation’s leading cause of death among men. Between 70 and 89 percent of all sudden cardiac events occur in men, and nearly half of men who have a heart attack before age 65 die within eight years.
The study, “Vigorous Physical Activity, Mediating Biomarkers, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction,” is published in this month’s issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, the official journal of ACSM.