Performance on exercise test predicts risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer

December 6, 2018, European Society of Cardiology
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Performance on an exercise test predicts the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes, reports a study presented today at EuroEcho-Imaging 2018. Good performance on the test equates to climbing three floors of stairs very fast, or four floors fast, without stopping. The findings underline the importance of fitness for longevity.

The study included 12,615 with known or suspected . Participants underwent treadmill exercise echocardiography, in which they were asked to walk or run, gradually increasing the intensity, and continue until exhaustion. Watch a video of the technique here. The test also generates images of the heart to check its function.

During a median 4.7-year follow-up, there were 1,253 cardiovascular deaths, 670 deaths, and 650 deaths from other causes. After adjusting for age, sex, and other factors that could potentially influence the relationship, each  MET (metabolic equivalent) achieved was independently associated with 9%, 9%, and 4% lower risks of cardiovascular death, cancer death, and other causes of death during follow-up.

The death rate from was nearly three times higher in participants with poor compared to good functional capacity (3.2% versus 1.2%, p<0.001). Non-cardiovascular and non-cancer deaths were also nearly three-fold higher in those with poor compared to good functional capacity (1.7% versus 0.6%, p<0.001). Cancer deaths were almost double in participants with poor compared to good functional capacity (1.5% versus 0.8%, p<0.001).

As expected, the imaging part of the examination was predictive of cardiovascular , but not of deaths caused by cancer or other conditions.

Study author Dr Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain, said: "Our results provide further evidence of the benefits of exercise and being fit on health and longevity. In addition to keeping body weight down, physical activity has positive effects on blood pressure and lipids, reduces inflammation, and improves the body's immune response to tumours."

Dr Peteiro said people do not need to undergo exercise echocardiography to check their fitness level. "There are much cheaper ways to estimate if you could achieve ten METs on the treadmill test," he said. "If you can walk very fast up three floors of stairs without stopping, or fast up four floors without stopping, you have good functional capacity. If not, it's a good indication that you need more exercise."

ESC guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity, or a combination of the two intensities.

Explore further: Heart disease patients less likely to die of cancer if they are fit

More information: 'Prediction of cardiovascular, cancer and noncardiovascular noncancer death by exercise echocardiography' will be presented during Poster session 3: Stress Echocardiography on 6 December, 14:00 to 18:00 CET

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