Research: Exercise may reduce a strong family risk for heart disease.


Fitness and physical activity associated with a decreased risk of heart disease in those genetically predisposed.  


Candy Hearts

People have long looked for a magic bullet to reduce their risk of heart disease.  Experts have pointed to reduced sugar and saturated fat as a mean to lower the risk.  The question is can you exercise away the risk of heart disease with a healthier life style.  I have always been told that you cannot exercise away bad decisions, but can you exercise away bad genes?  Observational studies have shown inverse associations among fitness, physical activity, and cardiovascular disease, but little is known about these associations in individuals with elevated genetic susceptibility to these diseases.

A new research project looked at this very topic.  They study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation[1].  The researchers looked at physical fitness in those who are genetically predisposed to heart disease and its effect on the risk of coronary events.   They used estimated associations of grip strength, objective and subjective physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness and their association of cardiovascular events and all-cause death in a large cohort of 502,635 individuals from the UK Biobank.  The researchers examined these associations in individuals with different genetic burden by stratifying individuals based on their genetic risk scores for coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation. They compared disease risk among individuals in different tertiles of fitness, physical activity, and genetic risk using lowest tertiles as a reference.  The researchers found that grip strength, physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness showed inverse associations with incident cardiovascular events and atrial fibrillation. In particular, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with 49% lower risk for coronary heart disease and 60% lower risk for atrial fibrillation among individuals at high genetic risk for these diseases.

The bottom line: Research: Fitness and physical activity demonstrated inverse associations with an incident cardiovascular disease in the general population.  Those with an elevated genetic risk for developing heart disease appear to derive the same cardiovascular benefit from exercise as the general population.  I suggest you add some cardiovascular and strength training into your daily schedule.  


    E. Tikkanen, S. Gustafsson, and E. Ingelsson, “Associations of Fitness, Physical Activity, Strength, and Genetic Risk With Cardiovascular Disease: Longitudinal Analyses in the UK Biobank Study,” C, p. CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032432, Apr. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032432″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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    About the Author

    I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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