Cardiovascular disease is a collective name given to a number of diseases affecting the cardiovascular system, such as:
- coronary heart disease (disease of walls of coronary arteries – heart attack)
- cerebrovascular disease (affecting walls of arteries supplying the brain – stroke)
- peripheral vascular disease (affecting walls of arteries supplying the periphery – legs)
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- heart failure (when the heart is unable to pump blood at a rate sufficient to meet the demands of the body)
Germany has one of the highest rates of death due to heart disease and it is one of the most common cause of death. More than 310 people per every 100,000 die of cardiovascular disease each year. There are many different causes for cardiovascular diseases, such as:
- being overweight
- having high cholesterol
- physical activity levels
How can physical activity help?
Exercise is one of the treatments for cardiovascular disease. It has an anti-inflammatory response which reduces the inflammation as cardiovascular disease is an inflammatory disease. Muscle contraction decreases levels of inflammatory markers and increases levels of anti-inflammatory markers in blood which has a protective effect. In addition, physical activity increases cardio-respiratory fitness and decreases adiposity. Reduced adiposity reduces the risk of inflammation and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
What does the research say?
It has been found that leading a physically active lifestyle is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality. This results from the reduction in BMI, diabetes and hypertension (Rodriguez et al., 1994). Even a short-time exercise training program of 12 weeks significantly improved body composition and anti-inflammatory levels (Huang et al., 2015).
Not only time spent in physical activity is important, but interrupting sitting time with short periods of light or moderate intensity walking improves glucose metabolism which reduces cardiovascular risk (Dustan at al., 2012).
Increased physical activity levels are important even in patients with existing coronary heart disease. Higher frequency of physical activity over a 5-year period were beneficial for reducing or maintaining lower levels of inflammation (Jarvic et al., 2014).
Moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity are positively associated with the reduction of cardiovascular disease. It is still beneficial to participate in exercise programs even if diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.