It is well documented medical science that exercise is an important part of a healthy life regimen. But new research is showing just how much of an impact regular exercise can have on the risk of fatal disease, even for those with a genetic predisposition. The new study examined roughly a half-million people over many years and found that more physical activity, greater grip strength and better cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with significantly lower risk of heart disease. And the results were similar even for those with a family history of heart disease.
Specifically, the study found that among those with the highest genetic risk for cardiovascular disease, the risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by 49 percent for those with high cardiorespiratory fitness. "The main message of this study is that being physically active is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, even if you have a high genetic risk," says Dr. Erik Ingelsson, the study's author.
The study results are not surprising to Dr. John Higgins, sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at UT Health. "No matter what your medical status right now, exercise is medicine, it is a type of medicine, and it's probably better than a lot of medicines," he says. Dr. Higgins tells KTRH he always encourages his patients to get plenty of exercise. "Whatever they do, do it at the time of the day that works best for them, and try to make sure they do something most days of the week, and mix it up a bit."
Work-related stress is another unhealthy factor that Dr. Higgins often sees. "You can't be a workaholic and be healthy, you've got to have balance in your life," he says. He also recommends what he calls "screen-free time." "Put down the smartphone, get away from the computer, and get some fresh air and sunlight, because that is also important for your health and wellness," says Dr. Higgins.