The link between heart diseases & exercise


Have you ever thought about what small exercises you do and how it contributes to decreasing the risk of heart disease? A team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found out that, “As little as two and a half hours of exercise a week, that means 150 minutes a week can cut heart disease risk by 14%”. What about others who do exercises but not as much as recommended, say 100 or fewer minutes for a week? Would they not benefit from straining their bodies? They do too. The same team of researchers have found that even those who engage in exercise for less than 150 minutes a week can lower the risk of heart disease. The advice of the American Heart Association (AHA) is to engage in exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes a week and also suggests that those who shed laziness and do some physical activity can reap better benefits than couch potatoes.

In fact, this is good news for many who lead unhealthy lifestyles by adopting unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, eating too many oily foods, red meat, etc. Even for those who have unhealthy habits, they can reduce the risk of heart diseases if they regularly engage in exercises.

Healthcare experts are of the view that even little exercise to the body such as walking, taking steps instead of elevator, gardening, playing a sport, dancing is better than not making any movements in the body at all. In short, doing even little exercise can be better than doing no exercise. However, the more time spent exercising such as 5 to 7 hours a week, research says can comparatively reduce the risk of having heart diseases. As per the findings of the same research, about 300 minutes a week, or five hours  of exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attacks, angina and bypass surgeries, by 20 per cent in comparison to those who do not exercise.

Most people in society are not aware of the benefits of exercise. Exercise can reduce the risk of many non-communicable diseases not only heart diseases. It is required to educate people more of the importance of exercising. Nowadays, majority of the population is inactive. They hardly shake their limbs to give them a good exercise. Some are too busy to spare even a little time exercising, while some are lazy. However, once a person gets accustomed to exercising, the body requires it regularly and the person gets familiar with that lifestyle. Habitual couch potato lifestyle can increase the risk of many non-communicable diseases.

So, take exercises seriously and be motivated to shake your limbs. No motivation to exercise can also inhibit a person from exercising. Anyone can find half an hour a day to exercise.

Start exercising. It is better than swallowing heaps of pills once you get a heart attack. Exercise is preventive medicine for heart diseases.

However, it must be noted that exercise alone cannot prevent heart diseases which can be fatal. A healthy lifestyle is a must to have a ‘good heart’. A healthy diet can play a major role. Avoiding too much oily and salty foods, red meat and junk foods can contribute to good health. Recent research have found that stress can play a role in getting heart diseases. Hence, avoiding mental stress is needed to keep the heart healthy. Regular check-ups for cholesterol can be helpful too. Do not forget that exercise is the foundation for healthy life.  

By Dr. Methmal Subasinghe (MBBS)