Exercise could potentially be just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs for some heart conditions according to a new study.
Researchers from the London School of Economics and Harvard and Stanford medical schools analyzed 305 randomized controlled trials involving about 340,000 participants in connection with four disorders: Type 2 diabetes, repeat heart attacks, repeat strokes, and heart failure. Of this group, about 15,000 were told to exercise, while the rest received medication.
According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, “No statistically detectable differences were evident between exercise and drug interventions in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and prediabetes.”
In the case of heart failure, medicine appeared to be more effective in preventing death, however.
The study authors suggest that medical research to date is lopsided in favor drug interventions over lifestyle modifications and in particular contains a “blind spot” when it comes to the benefits of physical activity and exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year heart disease kills more than 600,000 in the US alone, which accounts for 25 percent of recorded deaths. Further, coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing about 400,00 persons each year.
One of the study authors told the Wall Street Journal that “Exercise is a potent strategy to save and extend life in coronary heart disease and other conditions. We think exercise can be considered or should be considered as a viable alternative or in combination with drug therapy.”
“Although limited in quantity, existing randomized trial evidence on exercise interventions suggests that exercise and many drug interventions are often potentially similar in terms of their mortality benefits in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation after stroke, treatment of heart failure, and prevention of diabetes,” the BMJ study concludes.
The study also suggested that doctors should discuss exercise with their heart patients in instances where medication only provides a “modest benefit.”
The authors of the study acknowledged certain limitations in their findings, however, and urged further research into the issue of exercise as a viable alternative therapy to prescription medicine.
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