Modern medicine is helping people with heart problems live longer. But in many cases, patients aren’t doing their part, according to a study that finds many people whose lives are being saved by medical treatments are failing to follow up with exercise that would improve their quality of life and relieve some of the strain on the healthcare system.
“There is evidence that more than 70% of people who suffer from or who are at risk of developing a heart condition due to diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, do not follow a proper program of regular moderate or vigorous exercise, which is critical for avoiding further complications and even mortality,” said Dr. David A. Gonzalez-Chica from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
Gonzalez-Chica authored the study, published in Plos One, that looked at the exercise habits of 3,000 people in South Australia and Southern Brazil.
“Previous research has tended to assess the benefits of exercise habits of patients with cardiovascular disease who follow an exercise plan developed by their doctor,” Gonzalez-Chica said but too often ignores those who do not follow their physician’s recommendation. “The scale of this critical public health issue is therefore being under-reported.”
People with heart problems are living longer — especially in high-income countries — but their long-term quality of life is being adversely affected because they are avoiding moderate or vigorous exercise. Current guidelines suggest that at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity a week is recommended.
“Many people living with cardiovascular disease, or who are at risk of developing the condition due to existing health problems are exercising too little. Light exercise such as taking a walk isn’t sufficient. According to our study, walking for at least 150 minutes a week was also beneficial for improving the quality of life, even when the individual had a heart condition,” Gonzalez-Chica said.
Worldwide, the burden of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors is a growing public health issue. According to the World Economic Forum, noncommunicable diseases will cause a global loss of $47 trillion over the following two decades, with cardiovascular disease being the most important contributor.