The idea that exercise is the best ‘pill’ you’ll ever take to promote a healthy heart and blood vessels is consequently gathering steam in the medical community. World leaders in cardiovascular medicine gathered at the 2010 European Society of Cardiology Congress Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. The main topic of discussion was the impact that moderate exercise can have on not only preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) but reversing CVD in patients with existing damage. This is a profound statement as according to the American Heart Association we currently spend 475 million dollars annually treating CVD. The scientific data presented supports the notion of exercise as a ‘first line’ therapeutic medical intervention - not just a token preventative option - for patients with cardiovascular disease.
Interval Training Improves 5 Markers of Disease
A very interesting study at the Conference entitled “Exercise: from leisure activity to therapeutic option,” was presented by Dr. Denis Clement, highlighting the relationship between low peak VO2 and poor prognosis in post-myocardial infarction – or post-heart attack – patient outcomes. These results outline the relationship between poor aerobic fitness and poor outcomes after heart attacks. His investigative group concluded that aerobic exercise should be a ‘first line’ therapeutic option when treating CVD patients. That is to say Dr Clement’s medical team view exercise as the most important treatment option for cardiovascular patients due to its overwhelming positive impact on cardiovascular health. His team has also seen benefits using interval aerobic training on Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X, a growing epidemic in North America. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a combination of elevated triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar or insulin levels, decreased HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, and increased body fat levels or body mass index (BMI). Dr. Clement’s preliminary work shows the power that one single intervention – interval aerobic training – can have on changing all five disease-markers! Not even the best drug in the world can have this wide reaching beneficial impact.
Increasing Strength Improves Heart Health
Another study presented in Stockholm, by Dr Francois Carre, discussed the beneficial impact that weight training can have on cardiovascular health. Dr Carre, an expert anesthesiologist, believes that properly executed weight training targeting large muscle groups has a multitude of profound heart healthy benefits. His team’s research observed positive correlations between increased strength and improved cardiovascular health. This is incredible evidence that weight training can prevent cardiovascular degeneration and drastically reduce the incidence of CVD. Dr Carre’s research demonstrates that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks for CVD patients, however he does suggests patients be evaluated by a physician first before starting a new exercise regime and be given a personalized program to maximize their results.
Resistance Training Improves Blood Pressure
We often think if we are not losing weight after hours of training at the gym that we are not getting results, that our efforts are inconsequential. The studies presented at the Cardiology Conference in Stockholm tell a different story. They provide gold-standard scientific evidence that exercise is improving the structure and function of your heart and blood vessels, setting up the foundation for optimal health. Dr Rainer Rauramaa of the Finish Institute of Exercise further supports the use of resistance training as a therapeutic tool. He has stated "moderate resistance training exercise should be considered the ‘cornerstone in the treatment of hypertension’. He made this conclusion after presenting research highlighting the positive impact of moderate resistance training on blood pressure and vascular disease. His investigative team discovered “a clear anti-atherosclerotic effect” - or plaque reducing effect - in blood vessels due to strength training, regardless of whether or not the patient lost weight. This point is especially important. Even if you don’t lose any weight in the gym, you are improving your cardiovascaular health tremendously, and fighting off degeneration and disease. Best of all, there are no negative side-effects! Actually, one could say the side-effects of resistance training are increased energy, vitality, immune and digestive function, and better sleep! Sounds like something we all could use a little bit more of.
The overwhelming message from the Cardiology Conference was that traditional drug therapy is really only a ‘palliative’ or ‘band-aid’ therapy and did not address the underlying causes of the disease. Dr Rainer Hambrecht of Germany was so impressed with the results of his study that he concluded, "I would be happy if I could convince everybody with coronary artery disease to participate in a moderate exercise program." He presented material highlighting the positive impact that 12 months of exercise had on myocardial perfusion – or blood supply to heart muscles – and the symptom relief it gives patients suffering from angina or chest pain. His data showed that exercise was just as good as the leading cardiovascular drug on patient outcomes. However, exercise was the only thing that improved endothelial function and slowed the progression of disease, due to its holistic and overall impact on the body. This is a profound testimonial to the powerful positive impact of exercise on heart health.
Get started on an individualized heart healthy protocol of exercise, diet and supplementation.
Dr Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
Want to learn more? Listen to Dr. Charlie Weingroff PhD talk exercise, health and performance on the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast...
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2) American Heart Associtation, [www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4475] Jan 2010
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