Each month physicians from ProMedica and Mercy Health Partners will write columns about weight loss and fitness.
You've heard time and time again about the benefits of exercise and its ability to improve your overall health and decrease those risk factors for cardiovascular disease. As the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, heart disease can be controlled and even prevented through diet and exercise.
Even in my own practice, I see people who still don't understand benefits of exercise and what it means to their heart health. Simple changes can make a difference. You don't have to be able to run a marathon to see a change in your cardiovascular health.
As a cardiologist, I explain to my patients that by simply reducing their body weight by five or 10 percent, they will see a significant improvement in their cardiovascular health.
If you have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic or pre-hypertension, then you have the ability to reduce those numbers to within normal range, which is a blood pressure of 120/80 or below for adults.
And if you have suffered a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease, high blood
pressure, or diabetes, then you can reduce your numbers as well as the amount of medication taken simply by getting regular exercise and eating sensibly.
So what are the benefits of doing regular physical activity? They include:
•Improved heart circulation.
•Decrease in high blood pressure.
•Decreased risk of developing diabetes. Or if you are already a diabetic, exercise can lead to a decrease in the amount of medications taken.
•Helps reduce and control body weight by decreasing body fat, increasing muscle and increasing metabolic rate.
•Helps to deal with stress and releases tension.
•Improves the ability to sleep.
•Increases energy and muscle strength.
•Smokers who are physically active are more likely to decrease or stop. In fact those who exercise are twice as successful in their attempts to quit!
•Exercise also can offer other benefits, including strengthened muscles, increased flexibility, and stronger bones, which can help ward off the bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis.
Also, regular exercise protects your arteries, where heart attacks can start. Like all other muscles in your body, the heart becomes stronger with exercise. With regular exercise, LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, can be decreased. Too much LDL can lead to build up in the artery walls causing arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
By developing a regular exercise routine, those levels are decreased and the HDL, or "good" cholesterol, is increased. HDL is extremely important because it's what keeps your arteries clear and working properly.
If you aim to do between 30 and 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercises three to four days per week on a routine basis, then you are going to improve your cardiovascular risk factors. And what's important to note is that you do not have to do 30 to 60 minutes in one bracket of time. Rather, it can be broken down into 10 or 15 minutes sessions throughout the day. However, you do need to make it part of your regular routine and that your heart rate is increased or elevated if you want to achieve maximum benefit from your exercise.
Activities that are especially beneficial when done regularly include:
•Brisk walking or other aerobic exercises.
•ctivities such as soccer and basketball.
Even moderate-intensity activities, when performed routinely, can have long term health benefits. Examples include:
•Going for a stroll.
•Gardening or yard work.
You've taken the first step by signing up for the Million Pound Challenge, but remember to keep moving and you will soon be reaping the benefits, which include a healthier heart and reducing your cardiovascular risk factors.
Ameer Kabour is a board certified cardiologist and chief of cardiology for St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
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