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Simple Fitness Test Could Predict Long-Term Risk for Heart Attack, and Stroke in Middle-Aged People

Posted May 19 2011 5:39pm

In two separate studies, scientists have found that how fast a middle-age person can run a mile can help predict the risk of dying of heart attack or stroke decades later for men and could be an early indicator of cardiovascular disease for women.


In one recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers analysed the heart disease risk of 45-, 55- and 65-year-old men based on their fitness level and traditional risk factors, such as age, systolic blood pressure, diabetes, total cholesterol and smoking habits. The scientists found that low levels of midlife fitness are associated with marked differences in the lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease.


For example, a 55-year-old man who needs 15 minutes to run a mile has a 30 per cent lifetime risk of developing heart disease. In contrast, a 55-year-old who can run a mile in eight minutes has a lifetime risk of less than 10 per cent.


Dr Jarett Berry, Assistant Professor of internal medicine and an author on both studies said, "Heart disease tends to cluster at older ages, but if you want to prevent it, our research suggests that the prescription for prevention needs to occur earlier -- when a person is in his 40s and 50s."


The study found that a higher fitness level lowered the lifetime risk of heart disease even in people with other risk factors.


"Nearly all women under 50 years of age are at low risk for heart disease," Dr Berry added, "However, as women get older, their risk increases dramatically. In our study, we found that low levels of fitness were particularly helpful in identifying women at risk for heart disease over the long term."


Scientists have been seeking a method of improving their ability to determine which patients are at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease risk for some time. Blood-based and imaging techniques have been used to try to improve risk prediction, but fitness has not been examined until now.

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