Improved Fitness Lowers Mortality Risk Of Male Heart-Attack Survivors

while 31 percent of the controls said they had begun exercising regularly, Dorn said.

"The observed increases in fitness probably reflect the men who were most diligent in actually performing regular exercise," she noted. "Although we have no measures of fitness after the three-year study period, the thought is that the men who actually exercised after a heart attack probably became more fit, were likely to stay with it and, consequently, lived longer."

The original trial involved 651 men between the ages of 30 and 64 who had suffered a heart attack within eight weeks to three years of the trial's start in 1976. Before being enrolled and at every six months of the trial, participants received a physical examination and performed a multi-stage graded exercise test on a treadmill to estimate oxygen uptake, an indication of fitness, at different levels or stages of exertion. The highest stage completed and oxygen uptake at the end of the trial were designated as the participant's maximal physical work capacity.

Dorn and colleagues assessed mortality rates of all participants until their death, or at three, five, 10, 15 and 19 years after the trial's completion. Results showed that at three years, exercisers had approximately a 30 percent lower risk of death than non-exercisers, but the benefit did not reach statistical significance. This small, early benefit derived from a structured exercise program dissipated over time and had disappeared at 10 years.

On the other hand, those who increased their capacity to do work during the study period lowered their risk of death at every time period. Results showed that each increase of one stage in work capacity reduced the risk of death by about 10 percent, regardless of which study group the men were assigned to or their initial level of fitness.

"The increased capacity to do physical work most likely reflects the actual exercise performed during the tria

Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo

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