Can exercise prevent heart disease? According to the American Heart Association, exercise is one of the top recommendations for the prevention of all types of diseases, including heart disease.
Recommendations for Heart Disease Prevention
Most health care researchers and providers agree - heart disease is preventable. As you ask yourself, can exercise prevent heart disease, you might also want to consider other measures to take to give yourself a healthy heart. The top recommendations for preventing heard disease include:
- Eat a heart healthy diet
- Don't use tobacco products or smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have regular health screenings with a qualified health care provider
How Can Exercise Prevent Heart Disease?
Along with improving energy levels and making you feel better, exercise and an active lifestyle can help to prevent heart disease. There are a number of ways that exercise can help to do this.
Exercise helps to not only control your weight, but to also control your body composition. Carrying excessive weight and excess body fat causes your heart to have to work harder to pump the blood through your body. This chronic strain on your heart from excess weight can lead to heart disease and even heart failure.
Exercise helps with weight control in a variety of ways:
- Regular exercise burns calories. Since one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight is to burn as many calories as you take in, exercise can help to keep your weight under control by burning excess calories.
- Resistance training builds muscles and an increase in muscle mass increases your metabolism. Muscle tissue is hungrier than fat. The more muscle you have, the higher your body's caloric needs are to maintain your weight. This helps in the whole calorie balancing equation.
Improved Blood Lipid Profile
Exercise has been shown to increase the "good" cholesterol - high density lipoproteins (HDL) in your body. At the same time, it can decrease the "bad" cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides. By improving your blood lipid profile in this manner, you can maintain healthy blood vessels and a healthy heart, which can prevent heart disease.
Lowered Blood Pressure
Regular exercise is one of the top recommendations for decreasing blood pressure. High blood pressure puts excessive strain on the heart, which can lead to heart disease and heart failure. Exercise can help to lower blood pressure as the heart becomes stronger and more efficient.
High levels of stress can be very taxing on your heart. Stress leads to the release of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. Prolonged high cortisol levels in the body have been shown to lead to a number of conditions which are a risk factor for heart disease including:
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalance, which can lead to diabetes
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher inflammatory response
- Increased abdominal fat
Any type of exercise can lower stress levels, which can lead to an improved relaxation response and lower levels of stress and therefore, cortisol.
Recently, a link has been established between inflammation and heart disease. One of the indicators of inflammation is C-reactive protein, which is present in higher concentrations during inflammation. Inflammation doesn't just affect the muscles and joints, but can also affect the organs and blood vessels. Exercise has been shown to decrease C-reactive protein in the body, which is indicative of decreased inflammation.
According to the American Diabetes Association, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease. Those with diabetes are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and poor circulation. Fortunately, exercise can help to prevent diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity.
Recommendations for Exercise
In order for optimum protection for your heart, you need to do exercises for cardiovascular fitness, as well as strength training. Here are some recommendations for exercise to prevent heart disease:
- Do 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise in your target heart rate zone two to four times per week.
- Do strength training each of your major muscle groups two to three times per week.
- Maintain an active lifestyle aside from formal exercise.
Can exercise prevent heart disease? The answer is a resounding yes. A program of regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet and management of other health factors such as tobacco use and weight maintenance can be a large factor in living a long and healthy life.