Being fit in middle-age may not offer protection from heart disease
While a lot of middle-aged adults have begun exercising after realising its potential health benefits, new research claims that even the fittest among them are not immune to cardiovascular disease (CVD) — and they often do not have any symptoms. The study, from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, highlights how important it is for middle-aged adults to have their doctor check their CVD risk factors, especially if they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of CVD.
CVD refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. “We all know that exercise is good for us — it can help prevent a range of health problems and diseases, from cancer to depression,” said lead author Barbara Morrison, doctoral student at the UBC.
“However, even if you are really active, our findings suggest that you still can’t outrun your risk factors,” she added. For the study, published in the journal BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, the team followed 798 “master athletes” — adults aged 35 and older who engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity such as running to cycling, rowing and hockey — at least three days a week.
Of the 798 athletes, 94 (11%) were found to have significant CVD. Ten participants were found to have severe coronary artery disease — a blockage in their artery of 70% or greater — despite not having any symptoms. While the results may seem alarming, Morrison emphasised that it does not mean middle-aged adults should stop exercising.
Moreover, it is also important to practice moderation when it comes to exercise, Morrison noted. “There is no evidence that pushing exercise to the limit will make you live longer or your heart stronger, but when taken to the extreme, it may have the potential to do harm,” said Morrison.
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