Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide and remains a major focus in underwriting life insurance and living benefits. Determining the long-term risks of developing CVD has captured the interest of researchers, underwriters and actuaries alike.
A recent study of more than 1,500 male firefighters between the ages of 21 and 66 over a 10-year period looked at how simple exercise, a few pushups to be exact, might be linked to the risk of CVD. The results of this study were compelling to say the least. It found that the firefighters who could complete a minimum of 40 pushups within 30 seconds had a drastically lower risk of heart attack, heart failure and other cardiovascular ailments over the next decade compared to those who were only able to complete 10 pushups within the same time. This translates to a 96% reduction in the incidence of CVD between those firefighters who could perform more than 40 pushups versus those who could perform no more than 10. That is a significant decrease in risk! Even those firefighters that could complete 11-20 pushups within those 30 seconds still saw a 64% reduction in CVD, confirming that you do not have to be a pro-athlete to see positive results. Better health is within everyone’s grasp.
Before you hit that pushup floor, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. The study does not claim that pushups in themselves reduce the risk of developing CVD. In fact, hypertension and smoking are still the highest risk factors for the disease and can adversely affect heart health independent of exercise. Additionally, the study only looked at younger men, 39.6 being the average age, and it excluded women altogether. For women, CVD develops 7-10 years later than men and remains the primary cause of death in women over the age of 65.
So what does this mean to you, the insurance professional? Essentially, it confirms that exercise is imperative for heart health and longevity. Even so, it is important to look at the whole picture – exercise is vital but it does not tell the full story of heart health since other factors can affect cardiovascular disease. To better help your clients, keep yourself informed on heart health and cardiovascular risk by exploring similar studies on the topic of fitness and mortality. Now…drop and give me 40!
 (Yang, Justin; Christophi, Costas A.; Farioli, Andrea, 2019)