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Being Active Reduces Heart Risk

      WASHINGTON (AP) - Being active is good for damaged hearts.

      A new study finds that people who have had one heart attack reduce their risk of having a second - and of dying - if physical activity is a habit.

      ``People are more likely to not have a second heart attack if they are active, compared with those folks who are sedentary,'' said researcher Lyn Steffen-Batey.

      Steffen-Batey, who was lead author of the report in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, worked on the study at the University of Texas School of Public Health. She is now at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

      Steffen-Batey and her colleagues looked at 406 people in Nueces County, Texas, who had survived a first heart attack. The patients answered questions about their health and physical activity in yearly telephone interviews for up to 5 years. Death information came from such sources as relatives, obituaries, death certificates and hospital records.

      One-hundred-fifty patients went on to have another heart attack. But patients who remained active had a 60 percent lower risk of a fatal or nonfatal heart attack, compared with those who had little or no activity, the study found. Patients who increased their activity had a 78 percent lower risk.

      The results were statistically weighted to account for factors that can raise the likelihood of a second heart attack, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and the severity of the first heart attack.

      The findings indicate that patients can''t give up being active at the end of their cardiac rehab programs, which typically last 12 or 23 weeks, Steffen-Batey said. They should plan a home exercise program that picks up where cardiac rehab leaves off, she said.

      However, patients should not try this on their own, she said. They should first get examined and approved by their health care provider, such as their doctor. The caregiver can write an exercise prescription, Steffen-Batey said.

      Steffan-Batey''s project lacked enough data on specific exercises or intensities to let her make recommendations on what form of activity would be best. Most patients in the study did things ranging from light gardening to jogging, although some worked harder.

      The findings make sense, given previous studies that showed exercise reduced the risk of a first heart attack, said Dr. Gerald F. Fletcher of the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla., a heart association spokesman. And the study provided additional value because the Nueces County study area provided a heavily Mexican American population and this group is not often studied, he said.

      The findings are good news for patients, said Dr. Sidney Smith of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He, like Fletcher, was not connected with the study.

      ``We can reassure them that exercise appears to be beneficial and there is a growing body of evidence that suggests they will have a lower risk of a subsequent event if exercise is a part of their total program,'' Smith said.

      While the study can''t help him advise patients specifically on what form of activity is best for them, it does leave him feeling that he''s right to advise mild to moderate exercise, Smith said.

     

      On the Net:

      American Heart Association: http://www.americanheart.org

      Abstract of the study: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/102/18/2204

     

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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