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Exercise reverses risk of heart disease in middle aged, study reveals

09 January 2018 09:27

Study shows that exercise can delay cardiovascular aging and reduce the risk of heart failure

Study shows that exercise can delay cardiovascular aging and reduce the risk of heart failure

Researchers have found that middle-aged people can reverse or reduce the risk of heart disease and conditions like dementia by taking regular exercise.

Founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Dr Benjamin Levine, who led the study, said, "The key to a healthier heart in middle-age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life."

The right dose, according to researchers, is four-five times weekly, for a two-year period.

Undoing effects of sedentary living

Sedentary behaviours, such as sitting for long periods, increase the risk of heart failure. But exercise can reverse these effects, the study shows.

53 adults aged 45-64 participated in the study. They were divided into two groups, one of which followed an aerobic routine with increasing intensity over the course of 2 years. The other group practised balance training, yoga and weight lifting for the duration of the study.

The first group showed improvements in markers of heart health, although the second did not.

"We found what we believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is four to five times a week, and the 'sweet spot' in time, when the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behaviour can be improved - which is late-middle age," Dr Levine said.

"The result had a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart of most of the study participants."

Cell rejuvenation

Director of aging research at King's College London Dr Richard Siow said that the study shows cardiovascular aging can be delayed.

"We can, in a way, rejuvenate or make the cells in the heart [...] resemble younger cells through an exercise programme," he said.

He also said the study had implications for conditions such as dementia, as improved heart function facilitates blood flow to the brain.

There are, however, some limitations to the study. It does not mention diet or other factors that can affect health, such as pollution, for example.

Another is that people must be willing to exercise.

"Exercise needs to be a part of people's personal hygiene [...] You need to find ways to incorporate it into your daily activities," Dr Levine said.

Reference: BBC