Research shows that measuring the body's capacity to exercise through cardiac stress tests can predict the risk of coronary heart disease.
This and heart rate recovery can improve dramatically on existing techniques that predict who is most likely to suffer a heart attack or die from coronary heart disease (CHD).
In the September edition of the journal Circulation, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research team reports that 90 percent of men and women with no early signs of CHD who, nevertheless, died from it had had below average results from their cardiac stress tests conducted 10 to 20 years earlier.
The team's analysis showed these asymptomatic people were two to four times more likely to die from CHD within 10 to 20 years than people with average or better-than-average stress test results, even though traditional scoring for major risk factors for the disease, such as such as age, blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels and smoking status, had determined the asymptomatic people to be at low or intermediate risk of having heart problems.
According to the cardiologists, these exercise stress tests are easy to perform, lasting less than 20 minutes and requiring only that a person walk on a treadmill at progressively higher speeds and inclines every three minutes until they become markedly fatigued. During the test, people are hooked up to a heart monitor.
The researchers report that 246 participants died from CHD even though their FRS as at either low or intermediate risk of the disease when they had been initially categorized. However, 225 of those who died also had below average test scores for exercise capacity and heart rate recovery.