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Exercise and Heart Disease: Prevention and Management

Your heart is important. It keeps you ticking and in motion. Unfortunately it is highly susceptible to disease. In a shocking release the American Heart Association revealed that almost half of all American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease. The report, which can be found in the AHA journal Circulation and online here, revealed that the primary cause for the uptick in heart disease is due to new blood pressure guidelines.

There are a number of causes for high blood pressure. Environmental, genetic and lifestyle choices all influence the prevalence of heart disease. And with heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States, making sure you take the steps to take care of your heart and combat this alarming trend is imperative.

Fortunately getting your heart in better health is no secret.

A healthy diet combined with exercise, rest and stress management has proven effective in maintaining a healthy heart. It is getting into these habits that may be difficult for some.

The added time it takes to think ahead and prepare meals, stress in your personal life and work, and not having the time to hit the gym add up. But small steps in establishing new habits make a big difference.

Establishing a consistent, manageable fitness regimen is critical in setting you on the right path towards better heart health.

Exercise Encourages Healthy Eating

Why start protecting your heart by establishing a consistent fitness routine? Because exercise has been shown to encourage the adoption of other healthy lifestyle changes. Perhaps the most beneficial is healthy eating.

For those wanting to live a healthier life it is important to understand that the primary influence on heart health and other important biomarkers is food choice. Unfortunately many Americans fall short of achieving a healthy diet. It’s not hard to see why, either.

Americans have been conditioned to desire foods that are often damaging to health. Processed foods served throughout the nation at the utmost convenience has led to skyrocketing rates of obesity, heart disease and poor health. And with these foods being highly addictive it is harder to switch to a healthy diet than it may seem.

That’s where exercise comes in.

Exercise has been shown to affect a variety of behaviors, including those related to eating better. This is due to its property of enhancing an individual’s mental capacity for inhibitory control.

Inhibitory control is critical in establishing healthier eating habits as it restrains the urge and temptations associated with the addictive properties of processed and unhealthy foods. With less attention paid to these desires it is easier to focus more on healthier eating patterns.

What’s more is that exercise promotes beneficial gut hormones. The way it affects hormones in the gut plays a role in feeling full. This decreases meal size and overall food intake, once again curbing urges to fill yourself up with damaging processed foods.

Exercise As Prevention & Medicine

It is not uncommon for many to manage their heart health with medicine. Statins, other prescriptions and low-dose aspirin are common solutions. But as the costs of medical bills and insurance premiums rise it is tough to argue in favor of taking medicine as a primary means of heart disease prevention and management.

Exercise is a much more manageable – and just as impactful – solution.

In a study performed by researchers from some of the world’s top schools it was found that exercise is just as effective as drug-based therapies for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke recovery, heart failure and diabetes management. That should provide a sigh of relief for those who do not like taking medicine or have a tough time remembering appropriate doses.

Even better? Exercise does not have to be intense to produce results. Taking a walk around the block can be a big step in curbing the damaging affects of high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.

The current advice for exercise is 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. This means getting your heart pumping a little harder than normal. Doing so not only can help you reverse some aspects of heart disease but also help in the prevention of the condition.

Why Is Exercise Good for Your Heart?

The heart is a muscle. The most important muscle (as we already stated)! As such it needs to be exercised to function properly and strongly.

When you exercise you strengthen your heart. By strengthening your heart you allow for a reduction in blood pressure, better blood floor and better overall cardio performance. That means you’ll likely feel better as you continue with an exercise regimen as the benefits add up.

As you exert more cardiac force your heart becomes more efficient. It is able to push more blood per beat and is better capable at pulling oxygen from your blood. The two of these together allow the heart to beat slower, lower blood pressure and perform better while under stress.

How to Get Started?

Exercising does not have to be intense. It does not have to make you sweat and fall to the ground in pain upon completion. All it has to do is elevate your heart rate above normal levels.

That’s why achieving a healthier heart through exercise is an easy goal to pursue. Anything that gets your heart rate into an ideal zone (check out this chart from the American Heart Association to find yours) will do the trick. From going on a brisk walk outside to performing bodyweight exercises at home or rowing on an indoor rower, there are many ways to get your heart pumping!

By integrating more physical activity into your daily life you better the chances of your heart performing at an optimal level.