A Small Increase in Fitness Levels Can Help Cut Heart Attack Risk

A study has revealed that poor cardiorespiratory fitness can increase future heart risk attack, even if not having any current lifestyle illness symptoms. The cardiorespiratory fitness of 4527 women and men was measured over a 2 year period. All participants were cancer, cardiovascular disease, or hypertensive free, and the majority of them were considered as having a low cardiovascular disease risk for the next 10 years.

A strong association was found between higher fitness levels and a lower risk of angina pectoris and heart attack over the 9 years after the measurements were taken. Even in individuals who seemed to be healthy, the top 25% of the fittest individuals actually had only half as high a risk as the least fittest 25%.[1]

Nonetheless, by 2017, heart attacks were experienced or angina pectoris was diagnosed in 147 of the participants. These diseases indicate that the heart’s coronary arteries are either narrowed or totally blocked. The participants were analyzed in groups according to their fitness levels in relation to others of the same gender and age. The risk steadily declined as participant fitness increased. The fitness and cardiovascular risk correlation was evident after other factor adjustments that differed between the least and most fit individuals.

Earlier research that has found an association between fitness levels and risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy populations have mostly been according to less precise fitness calculations, or on self-reported information regarding physical activity. This current study made use of maximum oxygen uptake for measuring participant fitness, which is the most precise fitness measurement method.

The body makes use of oxygen for driving metabolic processes that create the muscles’ energy. The maximum oxygen uptake is the maximum amount of oxygen the body is capable of absorbing while performing physical activity. Muscle functioning, as well as blood vessel and heart function are all important for oxygen uptake. It’s well established that individuals with low oxygen uptake have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. This study demonstrates that even in healthy men and women who are somewhat fit, lower fitness levels are an independent coronary artery disease risk factor.

The study suggests that cardiovascular health can be significantly improved with just a small increase in fitness levels. Heart attack or angina risk decreases by 15% for every 3.5 fitness point increase. Regular exercise that induces breathlessness can be an effective strategy for the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.

For accurate maximum oxygen uptake measurement, a special mask is used for breathing into while running on a treadmill that either increases in speed or the incline steepens every minute. The body requires progressively more oxygen to function at progressively higher intensity. Measurement finishes when the test subject is unable to run any longer, or when measurements indicate that the oxygen uptake isn’t increasing anymore even when the treadmill speed is.

Vo2 Max Fitness Levels

Image Source – livescience

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