I’ve written about the pros and cons of coronary calcium scans before (your questions inspired that blog a while back). And a new study confirms that the test can help predict a patient’s risk of dying over a 10-year period.
But the study also discovered an even simpler, zero-cost way of predicting that risk: Just asking patients how much they exercise.
Researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York had 2,318 patients over age 65 rate their level of physical activity on a scale from zero to 10 and also undergo coronary calcium scans. Then they kept track of those patients for 10 years. The patients who had CAC scores over 400, which indicates significant atherosclerosis, were less likely to die if they reported high levels of physical activity. In fact, the risk of those patients dying dropped to levels similar to patients with much lower calcium scores.
Another study that evaluated the outcomes of people over the age of 60 found that individuals should do more exercise not less as they age in order to prevent heart disease and stroke.
Researchers in South Korea found that people who did less moderate or vigorous physical activity as they got older had as much as a 27% increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems, while those who increased their levels of activity had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease of up to 11%.
Once again, scientific evidence points to the importance of addressing the root causes of heart disease. Once again, it points to the significance of lifestyle on heart disease and lifespan. And once again, it shows that it’s never too late to start! Remember the Tsimane people of Bolivia who walk 17,000 steps a day? Most of them have coronary calcium scores of ZERO, even the tribe members over the age of 75.
So what does all of this mean for you? Make exercise a priority as part of your efforts to achieve healthy longevity. Even if you’re sedentary now. You don’t have to become a triathlete overnight (or at all). It’s simply about moving your body regularly – ideally for an hour or more per day. If you’re slacking in this area, here’s how to do more. And here’s how to exercise safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
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