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Posted at 05:15 PM ET, 03/22/2011

The link between occasional physical activity and heart attack

We’ve all seen those scenes in movies where some couch potato who doesn’t usually get a lot of exercise suddenly clutches their chest and drops dead from a heart attack when they decide to do something active, such as have sex. But does that really happen? Well, a new analysis indicates that the answer is yes.

Issa Dahabreh of the Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Jessica Paulus of Tufts University and Harvard School of Public Health reviewed the scientific literature to examine whether there really is an association between occasional physical activity and sexual activity and sudden heart problems.

The analysis of 14 studies found that, indeed, overall occasional physical activity more than tripled the risk for having a heart attack, the researchers reported in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Having sex nearly tripled the risk, the researchers found.

That, however, is the relative risk. The absolute risk of that happening is actually quite small, the researchers noted.

In addition, the risk decreased significantly just by exercising a little, the researchers found. The risk for a heart attack dropped 45 percent and the risk of dying from a heart attack dropped by about 30 percent for each time each week someone got just a little exercise.

“Habitual activity levels significantly affected the association of episodic physical activity and [heart attacks] and episodic physical activity and [sudden cardiac death],” the researchers wrote.

So the take-home lesson is: Getting a little bit of exercise can really help protect your heart so you can enjoy life’s pleasures.

Video source: Journal of the American Medical Association

By  |  05:15 PM ET, 03/22/2011

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