Exercise may heal the heart as well as prevent future problems

Prevention is a big part of heart health. You’ll enjoy a healthier heart as you age if you eat well and exercise. What if your heart has already begun to show signs of problems? Exercise will help me?

It turns out that the answer is yes.

Physical activity is beneficial for the heart. It can help to prevent and even reverse the damage that has already been done. Dr. JoAnn M. Manson, Michael and Lee Bell Professor at Harvard Medical School, says:

A study published in the journal circulation on Sept. 21, 2021, showed that an exercise program lasting a full year helped people with heart-related problems who were at increased risk of heart failure.

The people in the study were suffering from a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy. This is an enlargement of the left chamber. It is harder for the heart to pump blood effectively when it has this condition. The biomarkers in their blood were also elevated, indicating heart damage or an increased risk of heart failure. These people are more likely to develop heart failure that has preserved ejection. The authors of the study wanted to know if exercising could improve heart health for people with this condition.

Researchers randomly assigned 46 participants aged 45-64 to a high-intensity exercise program for a year or to the control group. The control group members performed yoga, balance exercises, and light resistance training.

The exercise group received individualized workout plans based on fitness levels. They also worked with a trainer and used heart rate monitors. The participants walked, cycled, or swam at least three times per week for between 30 and 60 minutes. Interval training is a technique that involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of lower intensity. It has been proven to improve cardiovascular fitness more than other forms of exercise. Strength training was also done by the exercisers once or twice a week.

The participants were all subjected to heart imaging and tests that assessed the flexibility of their muscle heart at the beginning of the study and again at its conclusion. Researchers found that after a year, the heart muscles of those who took part in the exercise program were less rigid and more efficient when pumping blood. Researchers said this made them believe that exercise could protect against heart failure. However, they also added that one year was not enough time to evaluate long-term results and that more research is needed.

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Exercise for the heart

Dr. Manson says it’s not surprising the researchers saw improvements given the benefits exercise has on the heart, including lowering blood pressure.

Exercise can help you stay healthy. “Exercise can help you lose weight and reduce harmful inflammation in your body. It can also improve insulin resistance and blood flow.” She says. “All of these things could reduce cardiac stiffness.”

A lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting can also affect heart health. Sedentary living can cause weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Dr. Manson says that these conditions increase the risk for atherosclerosis (a type of irregular heartbeat), heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and even atrial fibrillation. All of them are interconnected.

She says that physical activity is the closest thing we have to a miracle cure for good health. It can influence several biological pathways and factors early on in the development process of diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. You will, therefore, have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack.

She says that regular exercise has many benefits, even at the molecular scale.¬†Exercise improves the cell’s ability to respond to insulin, and it can also enhance the function of blood vessels — by increasing their ability to dilate.¬†Exercise reduces inflammation in the blood vessels and body tissues

What kind and how much?

Dr. Manson says that a heart-healthy program includes both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. You should consult your doctor if you have had a recent heart attack or you are at heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Manson says that walking is a good option for the majority of people, no matter their health history. She cites a study published by JAMA Open on Sept. 3, 2021, that showed that people who walked 7,000 steps or more a day had a lower risk of dying prematurely.

Researchers asked 2110 participants aged 38 to 50 years to wear a tracker for seven days in a row. The participants were divided into three groups: low, medium, and high. They were then tracked for an average period of nearly 11 years. In this period, 72 people were killed. Researchers found that those who walked less — less than 7,999 steps per day — had a higher risk of dying during the follow-up than people who walked more — between 7,999 and 9,999 — or 10,000 or more — daily steps. The intensity of walking did not seem to have an impact on death rates.

People should walk at least 30 minutes per day, adding up to 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity each week. If you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease because of risk factors like hypertension, then you should strive to walk more – closer to 45 minutes per day, according to Dr. Manson. Try to get 45-60 minutes of exercise a day if you’re trying to lose some weight.

It doesn’t all have to be done together. She suggests breaking it up into 10 to 15-minute bouts of exercising several times per day.

It is recommended that you do strength training at least twice a week.

Try to reduce the time you spend sitting during the day. Dr. Manson says that sitting for nine to ten hours per day can increase heart risk. You can walk while you’re on the phone or invest in a standing table if you spend a lot of time at your computer.

Dr. Manson says, “You can be active when you work at a desk.”

Sitting can have many negative effects. Regular exercise will help to counteract these. She says that you can reduce some of this risk by exercising at other times during the day.

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