21 October 2016
People can minimise the impact of heart disease on their lives by taking part in more physical exercise - even if they are not able to commit to an intensive workout regime.
This is according to a new study from the University of Montreal, which has offered evidence that even low levels of physical fitness can have a preventive effect on most of the risk factors affecting people with cardiovascular disease.
Published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, the research aimed to measure the impact of physical fitness on heart disease risk factors among 205 men and 44 women with heart disease, including coronary artery disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and heart valve disease. Each participant undertook an exercise bike-based stress test to determine their fitness level at baseline.
The results showed that physical fitness levels that were up to 20 per cent below the average for the general population were sufficient to have a preventive effect on five of the eight risk factors affecting heart disease patients, including abdominal circumference, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and excess weight.
Findings from the study also indicated that maintaining a good fitness level before and after a heart attack plays a key role in preventing depression, another significant health issue that frequently affects people with heart conditions.
Although the easiest way to achieve optimal health outcomes is to follow the World Health Organization's recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, this is not always possible for those with existing heart problems, whose physical capabilities or endurance levels may have been compromised by their condition.
As such, the news that good physical condition is not necessarily required to produce a preventive effect on key cardiovascular risk factors will be a positive development for many vulnerable patients.
Daniel Curnier, a professor at the University of Montreal's department of kinesiology, said: "This is great news for people with heart disease who have difficulty adhering to a regular - mainly aerobic - exercise programme. Small improvements in their fitness level are enough. You don't have to be a great athlete to benefit from these effects."
The news also has implications for the general population in terms of underlining the importance of taking the necessary steps to combat sedentary lifestyles, which have become increasingly prevalent worldwide in recent decades due to societal evolution and changes in the way people work.
Spending too long sitting can lead to an increase in a wide variety of potential risk factors, including abdominal circumference, depression, diabetes, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, obesity, excess weight and smoking. This is why heart disease has become one of the leading causes of death in the world, accounting for around 31 per cent of fatalities worldwide - a figure that is only expected to increase further in years to come.
Since good physical fitness is proven to reduce cardiovascular mortality, it is vital for people to commit to an appropriate exercise programme that matches their capabilities and limitations.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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