About 50% of Americans carry genes that raise their risk for heart attacks and strokes, such as 9P21, often called “the heart attack gene.” However, DNA doesn’t have to be destiny: Even if you have genetic risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), you can slash it by about 50% if you’re physically fit, according to a study of nearly 500,000 people published in Circulation.
Another new study in Circulation reports that regular exercise can help prevent or manage more than 40 other diseases besides CHD, including diabetes, cancer, depression, arthritis, osteoporosis and obesity. Conversely, physical inactivity kills 5.3 million people prematurely each year — more than the toll from smoking! Here are some insights from the study and BaleDoneen tips to keep your muscles strong and your arteries healthy.
What’s the Best Exercise to Reduce Heart Disease Risk?
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 500,000 people with genes that increased their risk for CDH (plaque buildup in the arteries that supply the heart). Participants (aged 40 to 69 years) were tracked for 10 to 15 years and asked to log how often they worked out. They also wore activity trackers and measured their grip strength (how hard they could squeeze an object, which is an indication of the person’s overall strength).
The study found that among people with the highest genetic risk for CHD, those who got the most cardiovascular exercise (jogging, biking, running, brisk walking or other aerobic workouts) had the following benefits, compared to those who got the least aerobic exercise:
A 49% lower risk for CHD.
A 60% lower risk for atrial fibrillation (AF), a rapid irregular heartbeat that raises risk for stroke, heart failure and dementia. In the US, AF caused nearly 200,000 deaths in 2015, compared to 29,000 in 1990.
How Much Exercise Should You Get?
The American Heart Association and the BaleDoneen Method recommend the goals listed below. Before starting a new fitness regimen, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s right for you.
For overall cardiovascular health: At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days per week; at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise at least three days a week; or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise. This should be combined with moderate-to-vigorous muscle-strengthening exercise (such as lifting weights) at least twice a week.
To lower blood pressure and cholesterol: An average of 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week.
For more research-based news on exercise, also check out our blog post, “What’s the Best Exercise to Reduce Your Waistline & Heart Attack Risk?” To learn more about how people with genetic risk can avoid CHD and optimize their arterial wellness with our evidence-based approach, read the BaleDoneen book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene: The Revolutionary Plan to Prevent Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes, available at Amazon and other booksellers.