When heart disease runs in the family, more physical activity may be the best defence, say researchers. According to the findings reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, greater grip strength, more physical activity and better cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke — even among people with a genetic pre-disposition for heart disease.
“The main message is that being physically active is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, even if you have a high genetic risk,” said Erik Ingelsson, lead study author and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California.
To reach this conclusion, researchers looked at data from roughly a half-million people in the UK Biobank database. For participants with an intermediate genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases, those with the strongest grips were 36 per cent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and had a 46 per cent reduction in their risk for atrial fibrillation, compared to study participants with the same genetic risk who had the weakest grips.
Among individuals deemed at high genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a 49 per cent lower risk for coronary heart disease and a 60 per cent lower risk for atrial fibrillation compared to study participants with low cardiorespiratory fitness.
“The study is not a prescription for a specific type or amount of exercise and because the results come from an observational study, Ingelsson said, adding that “we can’t definitely claim a causal connection.” Nonetheless, the researchers said the data is robust and the results are worthy for consideration in guidelines.