Home Heart Disease Treatment Exercising to prevent and treat heart disease

Exercising to prevent and treat heart disease

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There is just too much research, along with mountains of anecdotal evidence, to ignore the role that exercise can play in getting, and keeping, people healthy.

Last week, Dr. Jason Profetto, of the Profetto-Savatteri Family Medicine Clinic in Stoney Creek, contributed to Fitness Solutions with his thoughts on the role of exercise in the treatment and prevention of generalized anxiety, panic disorder and insomnia.

A strong proponent of preventive medicine, he believes wholeheartedly in the value of using exercise as "medicine" along with more traditional medical intervention and therapy.

This week, we'll move on to the second category of his "Top 3" reasons for prescribing exercise to patients — cardiovascular health. Specifically, we're touching on fitness for preventing and treating heart disease and hypertension.

While it would be easy to go into pages and pages of detail around heart disease, lifestyle, health, fitness and nutrition, Profetto has come up with four key factors to consider, along with some "rules" for success.

1. If one is interested in actually preventing heart disease and hypertension, it is a non-negotiable that exercise must be a part of the solution. There is sufficient evidence that exercise (in particular sustained aerobic exercise) is of paramount importance when it comes to preventing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and recovering after a heart attack.

If prevention is your aim, you simply must exercise. Full stop.

2. While any exercise is better than no exercise, the medical literature points to the importance of sustained aerobic activities — like walking, biking and rowing — vs. strength training for reducing heart disease risk.

Specifically, this is due to a phenomenon called "collateralization" which refers to the growth of new blood pathways in response to regular aerobic exercise.

Regular exercise increases the body's demand for oxygen, requiring the creation of more pathways (described by Profetto as more "roads and highways" needed to meet the increased "traffic"). When the body creates more of these pathways, the strain on the heart and blood vessels is decreased. What the patient/client feels is a greater sense of well-being and greater exercise tolerance.

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