Exercise May Help Prevent Sudden Death, Researchers Find

James R. Hood
James R. Hood

No one wants to have a heart attack but if you’re going to have one, you’re more likely to survive if you have been maintaining an active lifestyle, a new study reports.

“There are many ways to be physically active at little or no cost. Our study provides yet more evidence for the rewards of exercise,” said Dr. Kim Wadt Hansen of Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, the author of the study, which was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Hansen and his team found that an active lifestyle is linked with a lower chance of dying immediately from a heart attack. It is generally accepted that an active lifestyle helps stop heart disease. This study focused on the effect of an active versus sedentary lifestyle in the first days after a heart attack — an area with little information.

The researchers studied 28,140 otherwise healthy individuals who had a heart attack during follow-up.

A total of 4,976 (17.7%) participants died within 28 days of their heart attack — of these, 3,101 (62.3%) died instantly. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a lower risk of instant and 28-day fatal heart attack.

Patients who had engaged in moderate and high levels of leisure-time physical activity had a 33% and 45% lower risk of instant death compared to sedentary individuals. At 28 days these numbers were 36% and 28%, respectively. The relationship with low activity did not reach statistical significance, however, the researchers noted.

“Based on our analyses, even a low amount of leisure-time physical activity may in fact be beneficial against fatal heart attacks, but statistical uncertainty precludes us from drawing any firm conclusions on that point,” Hansen said in a news release.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and prevention is a major public health priority.

European health guidelines recommend that healthy adults of all ages perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination of the two.

James R. Hood

Jim is a publishing entrepreneur and journalist. He founded ConsumerAffairs in 1998 and earlier was the founder of Zapnews, after holding executive posts at the Associated Press.