White men who exercise for seven-and-a-half hours a week or more are almost twice as likely to suffer from heart disease then those who do a moderate amount, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at the exercise habits of 3,175 participants for a 25 year-long period and found that white men who exercised a lot were more likely to build up plaque in their arteries which can lead to severe cardiac problems.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the UK, according to Public Health England.
At the baseline, participants were between the ages of 18 and 30 and were categorised into three distinct groups, depending on how much they exercised.
Those who were defined as working out three times above the national guidelines – more than 450 minutes each week - had greater amounts of coronary artery calcification (CAC) over time, which is a clinical measure of the amount of calcium and plaque in the heart’s arteries.
High levels of CAC are an immediate red flag to doctors that someone is at risk of developing heart disease.
However, these results were far more prevalent in white men, who were 86 per cent more likely to have CAC by the time they reach middle age than black male participants.
The results surprised the study’s authors, who expected individuals with higher levels of physical activity to have lower levels of CAC in the long term.
“Because the study results show a significantly different level of risk between black and white participants based on long-term exercise trajectories, the data provides rationale for further investigation, especially by race, into the other biological mechanisms for CAC risk in people with very high levels of physical activity,” said Deepika Laddu, co-author of the study, which was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
That’s not to say that it’s time for white men to put the dumbbells down for good.
“While the study suggests that white men who exercise at high levels may have a higher burden of CAC, it does not suggest that anyone should stop exercising,” Laddu added.