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Exercise not only lowers the risk of heart damage in middle-aged adults and seniors, but can also reduce the levels of heart damage in those who are obese, according to a new study.
"The protective association of physical activity against [heart] damage may have implications for heart failure risk reduction, particularly among the high-risk group of individuals with excess weight," lead author Dr. Roberta Florido said in an American College of Cardiology news release.
Kentucky adults struggle with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, and the state leads the nation in heart disease.
Thirty-five percent of Kentucky's adults are obese, and one-third of them reported in 2015 that they hadn't had any physical activity or exercise in the 30 days before they were surveyed. And 27.5 percent of Kentucky's seniors are obese, with 39 percent of them reporting no physical activity in the 30 days prior to the America's Health Rankings survey.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined more than 9,000 people without heart disease between the ages of 45 and 64. Researchers then grouped the participants according to how much exercise they got based on the American Heart Association's recommended guidelines of at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity, or 150 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous activity.
Then, to measure damage to the heart, they assessed blood levels of high-sensitivity troponin T, a marker of heart damage that has been shown to be associated with future heart failure.
"Individuals with lower levels of physical activity were significantly more likely to have elevated levels of high sensitivity troponin, suggesting higher heart damage," says the release.
For example, the study found that those in the "intermediate" category of activity (those who exercised, but less than the AHA recommendations) were 34 percent more likely to have heart damage and those who did not exercise at all were 39 percent more likely to have heart damage than their peers who met the guidelines for exercise.
Further, the researchers looked at the role of exercise on the troponin levels of obese adults and found that the obese participants who got the recommended level of physical activity had lower levels of troponin compared to those who did not exercise at all, "which indicates that the protective association of physical activity and heart damage may be stronger among individuals with obesity, a group at particularly high risk for future heart failure," says the release.
"Promoting physical activity may be a particularly important strategy for heart failure risk reductions among high risk groups such as those with obesity," Florido said.