DALLAS, July 6 -- Elderly men who walked about two miles a day had half the risk of heart attack of males who walked a quarter mile, according to a study in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study of 2,678 men, whose ages ranged from 71 to 93, also found that the risk of a first heart attack dropped 15 percent for every additional half mile a day walked. The men, all of whom were enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and were participants in a larger study of men of Japanese ancestry living on Oahu, walked from less than a quarter mile a day to eight miles daily.
Robert D. Abbott, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and one of the study?s authors, says the research suggests, "Encouraging the elderly to walk and to become active could have important health benefits. This is especially important because walking can be easily incorporated into a person's lifestyle and daily routine."
In an accompanying editorial, Peter G. Snell, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and Jere H. Mitchell, M.D., chief of the cardiopulmonary division at the same institution, say that walking helps prevent heart disease by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis -- the buildup of fatty deposits that can clog heart arteries -- and of blood clots and irregular heartbeat, both of which can trigger a heart attack.
The study's findings may extend to younger men as well as women, according to Snell and Mitchell. They point to similar studies such as the Nurses' Health Study and the Harvard Alumni Study, both of which found that walking can reduce a person's risk of heart disease.
Snell and Mitchell remind older people to consult with a physician before
beginning an exercise program. However, they add, "From a public health
standpoint, the finding that exercise that is neither strenuous nor prolonged
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association