Exercise may help outrun a family risk for heart disease

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Staying physically fit helps lower your risk of heart disease — even if the condition runs in your family, a new study finds.

Researchers relied on data from nearly half a million middle-aged and older adults in the United Kingdom. Over the six-year study, people with high levels of grip strength, self-reported physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness (as measured by a stationary bike test) were less likely than others to have a heart attack or stroke. That was true even among people with high genetic risk, based on whether they carried certain gene variants that have been linked to heart disease.

Among the one-third of people at the highest genetic risk, higher fitness levels were linked to a 49% lower risk for coronary artery disease compared with those who were the least fit. They were also 60% less likely to have atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder that raises the risk of stroke. The study was published April 9 in the journal Circulation.

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