benefit of exercise for coronary heart disease

Coronary Heart Disease Study Shows It's Never Too Late To Get Active (With Infographic)

October 08, 2021

It’s never too late to start being active according to a large-scale study with more than 30,000 heart patients. We often hear about all the health benefits of staying active throughout our lifetime. Many older people who didn’t exercise regularly during their life might’ve thought that it might be too late to start but that’s not necessarily the case.

Coronary Heart Disease Study Shows That It's Never Too Late To Get Active

This study showed that those with coronary heart disease who changed to a more physically active lifestyle later in life is almost as beneficial to survival as being active for your whole life.

“Those with coronary heart disease may benefit by preserving or adopting a physically active lifestyle”, remarked the study’s author Dr. Nathalia Gonzalez of University of Bern, Switzerland.

The leading cause of death in developed nations is heart disease despite there being a number of actions people can take to prevent or reduce risk of dying from it. A typical type of heart disease is coronary heart disease also called coronary artery disease. The coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood can be damaged by buildup of fatty material called plaque. Then blood platelets (the cells that help with clotting) can stick to the damaged areas of the arteries lading to blockage of blood flow. This in turns leads to ischemia (lack of oxygen to the heart muscle cells) or a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

A number of scientific studies have identified multiple risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing coronary heart disease. This is important because if we know the risk factors, we are able mitigate some of them by changing lifestyle habits. Coronary heart disease isn’t always accompanied by any symptoms, the first sign of heart disease could be a heart attack or cardiac death. This unpredictability means that it’s imperative to start doing something about the risk factors that you can control.

coronary heart disease exercise

The most common risk factors for coronary heart disease are:

  • Age (men over 40 * suffer from heart disease at high numbers / women over 45)
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • High bodyfat
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels

Actions to manage risk factors:

  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes weekly
  • Treat high blood pressure
  • Manage blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
  • Reduce fat
  • Lower cholesterol
coronary heart disease study

The Study Explained

The main purpose of the study was to look at activity levels over time and their correlation to the risk of death in patients with heart disease.


  • 33,576 patients with coronary heart disease split into 9 distinct groups
  • Average age 62.5 years old
  • 66% men 34 % women
  • Median follow-up from baseline 7.2 years


Patients were divided into 4 groups based on their activity status at baseline(beginning) and follow-up.

  • Inactive over time
  • Active over time
  • Increased activity over time= Moving from inactive to active
  • Decreased activity over time= Moving from active to inactive

Active: At least ~150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly

Inactive: Less than above would be considered inactive

The activity levels were based on validated questionnaires at the two data collection points (baseline and follow-up)

The researchers studied the risks of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular disease compared to patients who were inactive over time.

The results related to all-cause death were as follows:

  • 50% lower who were active over time
  • 45 % lower for those who were inactive then became active
  • 20% lower for those who were active then became inactive

The results related to death due to cardiovascular disease were as follows:

  • 51% lower for those who remained active
  • 27% lower for those who increased activity

According to Dr. Gonzalez "The results show that continuing an active lifestyle over the years is associated with the greatest longevity. However, patients with heart disease can overcome prior years of inactivity and obtain survival benefits by taking up exercise later in life. On the other hand, the benefits of activity can be weakened or even lost if activity is not maintained. The findings illustrate the benefits to heart patients of being physically active, regardless of their previous habits."

Coronary Heart Disease Infographic

coronary heart disease infographic its never too late to get active

Final Note

Coronary heart disease is a serious problem many people face throughout the world. Although we can’t change our genetics, we can control a number of the risk factors by making healthier choices. This study shows that it’s better to start getting active later than never.

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