Data assessed from about a half-million people in the UK Biobank database showed that greater grip strength, more physical activity and better cardiorespiratory fitness are all associated with reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke.
Researchers at Stanford University in the US found that for participants with an intermediate genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases, those with the strongest grips were 36 per cent less likely to develop coronary heart disease.
They also had a 46 per cent reduction in their risk for atrial fibrillation compared to study participants with the same genetic risk who had the weakest grips.
Among individuals deemed at high genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a 49 per cent lower risk for coronary heart disease and a 60 per cent lower risk for atrial fibrillation compared to study participants with low cardiorespiratory fitness.
"The main message of this study is that being physically active is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, even if you have a high genetic risk," said Erik Ingelsson, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, is not a prescription for a specific type or amount of exercise.
Because the results come from an observational study, "we can't definitely claim a causal connection," said Ingelsson.
He, however, said the data is robust and these latest results are worthy for consideration in guidelines.
For individuals, "it would be best to discuss a physical activity plan with a physician," Ingelsson said.
At the start of the study, they had no evidence of heart disease.
Data from 482,702 participants, aged 40-69, was included in the published analysis. More than half of the participants were women.
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