The advice for people who are
at higher risk of having a heart event is pretty straightforward. If you have
high cholesterol, are overweight or obese or have high blood pressure you should eat less animal fat, eat more plants and exercise to keep the heart muscle strong. In
fact, rehabilitation programs for people who have had heart problems revolve
around this advice.
Studies show that people who watch their
diet and exercise are less likely to have a heart attack. But if they do have a
heart event, how well do they fare—and how much of a difference do these
changes really make?
Dr. Michael Blaha and his colleagues from
the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease has some
good news on that. In a study published in Mayo
Clinic Proceedings, they found that people who had better fitness
before their first heart attack are more likely to survive the attack than
those with lower fitness.
The researchers studied the electronic
health records of more than 2,000 men and women who took a treadmill test as a
way to measure how fit they were. The people with the highest fitness scores
were 40% less likely to die after their first heart attack than those with
lower fitness scores. And a third of the people with the lowest fitness died
within a year of their first heart attack.
thinking here is that if you are more fit at baseline, you are more willing to
withstand lots of insults and have a good outcome if you do have a heart
attack,” says Blaha. “It’s quite a remarkable effect.”