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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia Researchers Report Few Heart Attack Survivors Get Recommended Physical Activity

Only 16 percent of heart attack survivors get the recommended amount of physical activity in the weeks after hospitalization, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian.  The study, “Objectively Measured Adherence to Physical Activity Guidelines after Acute Coronary Syndrome,” was published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

[Photo: Dr. Jeff Goldsmith]

Exercise has been proven to lower the risk of having another heart attack in patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes heart attack and unstable angina (chest pain). Current guidelines strongly recommend that ACS patients get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, at least five days per week in the first two weeks after hospital discharge. Previous studies, which relied on self-reporting, have been unable to provide a reliable estimate of how many patients achieve this goal.

In this study, the researchers measured the amount and intensity of physical activity with a wearable activity monitor in 620 heart attack survivors. Participants were instructed to wear the device for 10 hours, or more, at least three days per week during the first month after hospitalization.

In prior decades, heart attack survivors were counseled to remain in bed for many weeks, according to the researchers. Despite current evidence to the contrary, many ACS patients fear that straining their heart through exertion will cause chest pain or another heart attack.”

Clinician-supervised exercise programs for heart attack survivors have been shown to counteract patients’ fears and encourage more physical activity. However, participation in these programs remains poor. “Researchers and clinicians need to find ways of getting more people to participate in such supervised exercise programs,” said Dr. Ian M. Kronish, Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUMC, cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and lead author of the paper.

“Often the devices that monitor activity can prompt wearers to be more active, which may open the door to helping patients meet activity guidelines,” said co-author Dr. Jeff Goldsmith, Mailman School of Public Health assistant professor of Biostatistics.

This work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (grants P01 HL088117 and R01 HL098037) and the National Institutes of Health (grants K23 HL098359 and UL1 TR000040).