Tuesday, 16 January, 2018

Middle-aged couch potatoes can reverse heart damage with regular exercise, study shows

Representative image Representative image
Ben Pena | 09 January, 2018, 16:42

New Australian research has found middle-aged people who are unfit can reduce or even reverse their risk of heart failure if they start exercising regularly.

"Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past five years, this "dose" of exercise has become my prescription for life", said senior author Benjamin Levine, director of the Institute and Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern.

Participants exercised generally in 30-minute sessions, plus a warm-up and cool-down.

"We found that exercising only two or three times a week didn't do much to protect the heart against aging".

They said they had discovered an exercise regimen which should be a "prescription for life", which people should incorporate into their daily lives. People in the intensive exercise group were able to improve the amount of oxygen the heart took in from the blood and consequently distributed to the rest of the body, while those in the balance and flexibility group did not show any improvement.

One of the weekly sessions included a high-intensity 30-minute workout, such as aerobic interval sessions in which heart rate tops 95 percent of peak rate for 4 minutes, with 3 minutes of recovery, repeated four times (a so-called "4 x 4").

The baby boomers did 150 minutes of exercise per week, plus sessions of high-intensity interval training, which has been shown to be good for burning fat.

One session lasted an hour and was of moderate activity, which could be a fun activity such as playing tennis, biking, walking, or dancing.

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Another potential limitation is that study participants were for the most part Caucasian, which questions whether these results would apply to other racial groups. The participants were separated into two groups: one whose exercise program included moderate and high-intensity workouts, the other where participants performed weight training, balance work, and yoga.

At the end of the two-year study, those who had exercised showed an 18 percent improvement in their maximum oxygen intake during exercise and a more than 25 percent improvement in compliance, or elasticity, of the left ventricular muscle of the heart, Dr. Levine noted. It's also what causes muscles in the joints and heart to slacken.

Previous studies have shown that elite athletes, who spent a lifetime doing high-intensity exercise, had significantly fewer effects of aging on the heart and blood vessels, according to Levine. In its most severe form, blood can back up into the lungs.

Researchers explain that sedentary behaviors such as sitting or reclining for long periods of time increase the risk of the heart muscle shrinking and stiffening in late-middle age and increases heart failure risk. He also holds the Distinguished Professorship in Exercise Sciences at UT Southwestern, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

The researchers believe inactive, middle-aged people should slot exercise into their routine in the same way they do brushing their teeth or showering.

The Institute found that these regular exercise sessions decreased cardiac stiffness in middle aged people, therefore lowering the risk of heart attacks.

"The result was a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants". After two years, the participants' hearts were analyzed again to look for signs of any improvement.

The findings are based on following 50 men and women ages 45 to 64. The Dallas Heart Study is created to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of heart disease. Many came from the Dallas Heart Study, which includes 6,000 Dallas residents and is the only single-center heart study of its size and multiethnic composition.

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