Cardiovascular disease is a general name for over 20 different types of diseases of the heart and its vessels. We will focus on coronary heart disease which remains the most common cause of death for both men and women.
Heart diseases account for over 20% of the total deaths worldwide. Among these, the major percentage is coronary heart disease. The major culprit in coronary heart disease is Atherosclerosis which is defined as the disease of the arteries characterized by the deposition of plaques of fatty materials on their inner walls. The inside of the arteries becomes narrow which reduces or blocks blood flow. It frequently occurs in the coronary artery leading to heart attacks, it can also affect other arteries in the body such as cerebral and carotid arteries causing a stroke.
As the coronary arteries deliver oxygen and fuel to the heart muscles themselves, a complete or near-complete blockage can result in the death of that portion of the heart muscle which receives its blood supply from that vessel. Such blockages can produce chest pains or angina and can eventually result in heart attack and death.
When this process happens in cerebral or carotid arteries supplying blood flow to the brain, it can result in a complete or partial stroke.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Major risk factors for coronary heart disease are:
- Type-II diabetes
- Abnormal blood lipid levels
- Tobacco and smoking
- Lack of physical activity
These are all considered modifiable risk factors. Thus here individuals can make lifestyle changes to reduce the severity of the risk.
Reducing The Risk
The most abused risk factor of all the risk factors is physical inactivity. This is unfortunate because increasing one’s level of physical activity not only reduces the risk factor itself but also influences other risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, and elevated blood cholesterol.
The risk-lowering benefits of exercise for heart disease and subsequent health benefits have been repeatedly demonstrated in several studies. Regular physical activity reduces the morbidity and mortality rates for heart disease.
Regular aerobic exercise has shown immediate benefits on obesity, hypertension, and most important lowering cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise can reduce LDL levels significantly. LDL is considered to be the bad cholesterol because this is the cholesterol that deposits in the coronary arteries leading to plaque formation and blockade. Regular physical exercise can also raise the HDL which is considered to be good cholesterol. This is because it helps remove LDL from the blood. Even if LDL and HDL are at normal levels, there is a benefit of regular aerobic exercise. The total cholesterol level may not change much in such cases but aerobic exercise reduces LDL and increases HDL. This affects the HDL/LDL ratio which is significant to reduce the risk of Atherosclerosis.
People detected with coronary heart disease who undergo controlled aerobic exercise show exponential improvement in their conditions. Regular exercise further prevents a subsequent increase of deposits in the arteries.
Increased blood pressure or hypertension if left uncontrolled has several health consequences. These include brain stroke, vision loss, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and sexual dysfunction.
Regular aerobic exercise has shown tremendous benefit in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. There are cases in which exercise has shown equal to better results than hypertension controlling drugs. There are certain side effects too associated with these medications which can also be prevented by physical activity. One must remember though, that aerobic training must become part of daily life because if detraining occurs results will fade away in just one month of physical inactivity.
A Word From H2FCare
Thus we conclude that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Physically fit individuals have a lower relative risk for coronary heart disease when compared to their sedentary counterparts. Participating in a regular exercise program lowers many of the other major risk factors of heart disease.