Exercise Fights Heart Disease Among People With Genetic Risk

About one in four deaths in the United States are due to heart disease. But a new study suggests that even if you have a genetic risk for heart disease, there’s a simple way to combat it: Exercise.

In the U.K. Biobank study, researchers looked at data from nearly 500,000 people from England, Scotland and Wales At the start of the trial, the men and women allowed researchers to assess their genetic predispositions for heart disease. They also self-reported their exercise, wore accelerometers to subjectively measure their daily physical activity, wore hand dynamometers to measure their grip strength, and underwent a cycling test to measure their heart fitness.

The researchers looked at people who had a family or genetic history of heart disease but did not have any current heart problems, and found that overall, exercise lowered their risk of having heart problems over about six years. 

The researchers also found that among people with an elevated genetic risk for heart disease, having a strong grip (a measure of physical ability) lowered a person’s risk of coronary heart disease by 36% and their risk for atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat) by 46% compared to men and women with weak grips.

For men and women at a high genetic risk for heart disease, high fitness levels was linked to a 49% lower risk for coronary heart disease and a 60% lower risk for atrial fibrillation.

See Time Magazine article