Active teens cut heart disease risk

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

teen skate
There are plenty of fun ways to get in a good workout.

If given the choice between playing video games or jogging around the block, most teenage boys would mostly likely choose to sit in front of the TV. According to a new study published in the European Heart Journal, however, this will only increase their chances of developing heart disease in the future.

The study began many years ago, where researchers evaluated fitness levels of nearly 750,000 eighteen-year-olds in the Swedish armed forces. First, the scientists took basic measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, and muscle strength. In order to measure levels of aerobic fitness (exercise that uses oxygen), the volunteers had to ride on a cycle machine until they were too tired to continue. Using all these factors, the researchers then ranked their fitness from lowest to highest.

From there, the researchers followed the participants for an average of 34 years, either until they passed away, suffered a heart attack, or until January 1, 2011. According to the results of the study, for every 100,000 men, approximately 1,222 suffered a heart attack. Of particular interest, was a link between fitness levels and heart attack risk.

The volunteers with the lowest fitness levels were approximately 2 times more likely to suffer a heart attack when compared to those with the highest fitness levels. For every 15% increase in aerobic fitness, there was an 18% risk decrease. Additionally, the men who continued aerobic exercise in their late adolescence reduced their chances of suffering a heart attack by 35%.

According to lead researcher Peter Nordstrom, there is more research to do, but he says, “…given the strong association that we have found, the low cost and easy accessibility of cardiovascular training, and the role of heart disease as a major cause of illness and death worldwide, these results are important with respect to public health.”

Featured image courtesy of Gus Estrella on Flickr.