• Researchers followed more than 900 heart attack patients
  • "High" quadriceps strength was associated with 41% lower risk of developing heart failure
  • This could reportedly be indicative of a benefit of strength training for heart attack patients

Feeling like skipping leg day? You might want to reconsider, as researchers have found that heart attack patients may benefit from having stronger legs.

Leg day, or an exercise day one dedicates to leg workouts, isn't just a matter of exercising one's legs to make them look toned. It's actually an important part of overall fitness because leg muscles have various functions such as keeping the body balanced, enhancing athletic performance and even supporting everyday movements.

In their work, which was recently presented at the scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) in Prague, a group of researchers found another benefit of maintaining strong legs: It may lead to better outcomes following a heart attack.

For their study, the researchers tested the hypothesis associating leg strength with lower risks of developing heart failure after a myocardial infarction (heart attack), according to the ESC. This follows a previous study, which reportedly found a link between strong quadriceps and lower death risks among coronary heart disease patients.

Heart failure is when the heart can't pump blood to the body properly, perhaps because the heart has gone stiff or weak. It hasn't stopped working, but it needs a little help so it would work better. Myocardial infarction is actually the "most common cause" of heart failure — some 6 to 9% of those who had a heart attack end up developing it, according to the ESC.

To find out whether having strong legs may be related to heart failure risk after a heart attack, the researchers looked at 932 patients hospitalized between 2007 to 2020 with a median age of 66. They had acute myocardial infarction but did not have heart failure prior to being admitted to the hospital. They also didn't develop heart failure complications while at the hospital, as per the ESC.

Researchers measured the strength of the patients' quadriceps, or the muscles at the front of the thigh, and classified them as having either "high" or "low" strength. Some 451 patients had "low" quadriceps strength, while the rest (481) had "high" quadriceps strength.

During the four-and-a-half-year follow-up, 67 of them developed heart failure. Notably, "high" quadriceps strength was associated with a whopping 41% lower risk of developing heart failure compared to "low" quadriceps strength.

"Each 5% body weight increment in quadriceps strength was associated with an 11% lower likelihood of heart failure," the ESC noted.

Overall, it appears that patients who have strong legs may be less likely to develop heart failure after a heart attack. Perhaps such results could encourage people to be just a little more enthusiastic about leg day, as hard and exhausting as it can be sometimes.

This could also help inform health providers' monitoring and therapy recommendations for patients following a heart attack.

"Our study indicates that quadriceps strength could help to identify patients at a higher risk of developing heart failure after myocardial infarction who could then receive more intense surveillance," said study author Kensuke Ueno of the Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, as per the ESC release.

"The findings need to be replicated in other studies, but they do suggest that strength training involving the quadriceps muscles should be recommended for patients who have experienced a heart attack to prevent heart failure," Ueno added.

Representation. Pixabay