The Physical Benefits of Exercise in Protecting you from Heart Disease, Hypertension and Stroke

Heart disease, hypertension, and stroke are all examples of cardiovascular disorders, and exercise protects against all three, and the physical benefits of exercise in protecting you from heart disease, hypertension and stroke are as below:

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the America. Nearly twenty-six hundred Americans die of heart disease each day—that's one death every thirty-four seconds. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, since more than seventy million American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, including thirteen million with coronary artery disease.

Faced with a near epidemic of coronary artery disease, researchers have identified a series of factors that increase risk. People can't do anything about three risk factors: having relatives with heart disease, being male, and growing older all indicate vulnerability. But other cardiac risk factors can be modified to help prevent heart attacks. Physical inactivity is one of the strongest harbingers of trouble. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have calculated that sedentary folks are nearly twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as physically active people. Exercise is the only remedy for inactivity, but can it also help correct other risk factors? In the case of seven of the nine remaining major factors, the answer is yes, and the researchers also found that bus drivers who sat behind the wheel all day were 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease than the conductors, whose work kept them walking the aisles and climbing the stairs.

Blood pressure seems mysterious to many people, and high blood pressure is a major heart attack risk factor. Actually blood pressure is really very simple. Your blood pressure is the force that propels blood through your arteries, and it depends on two factors: the strength of your heart's pumping action and the resistance in your body's arteries. Blood pressure readings seem no less obscure, but they are actually just as straightforward. Your doctor will measure two pressures with each blood pressure check. The higher number is your systolic blood pressure, the pressure in your arteries while your heart is actually pumping blood. But after each beat, your heart muscle relaxes and fills with blood to prime the pump for the next beat. Your diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries in the interval between heartbeats; it is the lower of the two readings. By convention, the systolic pressure is given first. For example, if your systolic blood pressure is 120 and your diastolic is 80, your doctor will tell you your reading is 120 over 80 and will record it in your chart as 120/80.

Doctors have been monitoring blood pressures for more than a century. It didn't take long for them to realize that hypertension is a major cause of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Even so, three very important factors about blood pressure did not emerge until very recently. First, there is no "normal" blood pressure; instead, the risk of disease is continuously related to blood pressure across the entire range. Put simply, the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk. Second, both your systolic and diastolic blood pressures are important. Finally, new studies show that the risk of heart attacks and strokes begins to rise with systolic pressures above 115, a reading that was long considered low normal.

When you exercise, your blood pressure goes up. But it comes down afterward, and many studies show that exercise training helps keep it down. The magnitude of benefit ranges from small to large in various studies, averaging perhaps a five-point drop in blood pressure. That may not seem like much, but it's enough to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by 10 to 15 percent— without medication. And some studies even show that moderate exercise is better at lowering blood pressure than intense exercise.

Hypertension is an important disease in its own right, causing many cases of stroke and kidney failure and contributing to mental deterioration and visual impairment in many patients. About sixty-five million Americans, nearly one of every three adults, have hypertension, about fifty-nine million others have prehypertension, and around forty-seven thousand of us will die from high blood pressure every year in America, but the good news is that regular exercise can help prevent and treat high blood pressure. Exercise opens blood vessels, improves the arteries' ability to relax, lowers levels of stress hormones (such as adrenaline), and produces changes in hormones that govern the body's salt metabolism. The pressure-lowering effects of exercise are sustained for many hours after exercise, and people who maintain regular exercise schedules will continue to enjoy this benefit for many years. In addition, moderate exercise turns out to be at least as good as intense exertion. In some studies, in fact, less is actually more; for example, a nine-month trial of exercise in patients who had hypertension found that moderate exercise lowered average diastolic pressures by a very impressive 20 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury, the standard unit of blood pressure measurements), while intense exercise produced a drop of only 8 mm Hg. Hypertension is one of the many things that make No Sweat exercise right for you, remember that lower is better—and that regular exercise will help keep your pressure down.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. About 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year. Some 163,000 of those will die as a result, and countless others will suffer major long-term disabilities. Stroke and heart disease have much in common. Hypertension is a major cause of both, and many of the other heart disease risk factors also increase the risk of stroke. Since exercise protects against heart disease and high blood pressure, it should reduce the risk of stroke.

As compared to those who are sedentary, people who are physically active are about 34 percent less likely to suffer from strokes caused by bleeding into the brain and are about 21 percent less likely to have strokes caused by arterial blockages. And in the case of heart disease and high blood pressure, moderate physical exercise is very effective. In a Harvard study of 72,488 nurses, for example, walking was linked to a 34 percent reduction in stroke.


The Physical Benefits of Exercise in Strengthening Your Cardiovascular System

Although it is no bigger than your clenched fist, your heart is able to pump more than two thousand gallons of blood through sixty thousand miles of blood vessels each day. To do this, your heart beats more than one hundred thousand times each and every day of your life. Your heart is incredibly strong, but exercise training will make it stronger and more durable. A healthy heart pumps about five quarts of blood a minute while you are resting quietly. When you dash to make that bus, your heart rate may double or even triple, and the remarkable little muscle will pump out up to twenty quarts of blood a minute. Diseased hearts can't match this performance, but exercise-trained hearts can do much more. At maximum effort, an athlete's heart can pump up to forty quarts of blood a minute, and it can sustain a high workload for much longer than the unconditioned heart can.

How does regular exercise help your heart? Like your other muscles, your heart muscle gets larger and stronger with exercise. Exercise also makes the heart muscle more efficient, so it needs less oxygen for itself. Exercise training helps human hearts resist arrhythmias, including the abnormal pumping rhythms that can lead to sudden death. And moderate exercise will earn all of these heartfelt improvements for you.

For poets, the heart symbolizes emotion, for soldiers, courage, and for lovers, romance. But for physiologists, the heart is simply a pump. Its job is to pump oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to all your body's tissues; your arteries provide the delivery system that makes it possible. Doctors used to think of arteries as passive conduits for blood, working for your body the way a garden hose works for your lawn. Wrong! In fact, arteries are complex structures with crucial regulatory functions, and they are in the front line of the battle for cardiovascular health.

Every artery has three layers in its wall. New research has focused on the inner layer, which is composed of a thin layer of endothelial cells that are in direct contact with the bloodstream. Endothelial cells have a crucial role in vascular health, and exercise training has an important effect on them. Among other things, endothelial cells produce nitric oxide, which has two crucial functions. It keeps the arterial lining smooth and slippery, preventing damaging inflammation and artery-blocking blood clots. In addition, it relaxes the smooth muscle cells of the artery wall's middle layer, preventing spasms and keeping arteries open. Even in health, age takes a toll on endothelial cells, reducing nitric oxide production so that arteries become stickier, stiffer, and narrower. Exercise training boosts nitric oxide production, keeping arteries supple and young. And here's more good news: you don't have to start young or push yourself hard to get these benefits. For example, when scientists from the University of Colorado studied healthy but sedentary men with an average age of fifty-three, they found that a walking program produced dramatic gains in endothelial function in just three months.

Exercise will help keep you and your heart and arteries young. It will also keep your heart and arteries healthy. The inner and middle layers of the artery wall are the battlegrounds of atherosclerosis, the disease responsible for heart attacks, most strokes, and many cases of kidney failure and for peripheral artery disease, which can lead to gangrene and amputations, usually in the legs and feet. As you'll soon see, exercise fights atherosclerosis, protecting you from heart attacks and strokes of many cardiovascular diseases.


The Physical Benefits of Exercise in Making More Health and Longevity

Over the past fifty years, scientists have provided plenty of evidence that the benefits of exercise are important, even crucial, for good health. Although physical activity can reduce your risk of many illnesses, its most important impact is on cardiovascular disease. Even modest exercise, puts stress on nearly every part of your body, it shouldn't scare you away from exercise. In fact, if the stress of exercise is applied properly, nearly every part of your body will respond by growing stronger and healthier. The result is true fitness. It's not measured by how fast you can run, how much you can lift, or how big your biceps are. Instead, real fitness is measured by how well your body can withstand stress of all sorts: the stress of exercise, the stress of disease, the psychosocial stresses of twenty-first-century life, and even the stress of the aging process.

Exercise can make you fit and healthy. The trick is to know how to exercise properly and then to make it part of your daily life. And the way to start is by understanding how exercise affects your body. Even the most committed couch potato has sprinted to catch a bus or an elevator, and all of us can remember how it feels to exercise. Physical exertion makes your heart beat faster and harder. Your breathing also gets faster and deeper. If you're at it long enough, your skin will get flushed, warm, and damp with perspiration. Your muscles will be taut from effort, and they may ache and stiffen up for some time afterward. If you are really pushing yourself, you may notice some nausea, abdominal discomfort, or lightheadedness, and you might enjoy high spirits right after you come to a stop, only to feel tired, sleepy, or a bit grumpy later in the day.

You don't have to be an exercise physiologist to know that exercise makes your heart, lungs, and muscles work harder or that your metabolism speeds up, producing extra heat. But even though an occasional burst of exercise may enable you to catch a bus or enjoy a sporting afternoon with the kids, it won't do much for your health. For fitness and health, sporadic exercise won't do—but regular exercise will do very nicely indeed. The body responds to the stress of habitual exercise with a remarkable series of adaptations that are collectively known as the training effect. Hippocrates didn't have the benefit of modern exercise physiology, but the Father of Medicine seems to have predicted the training effect some twenty-four hundred years ago when he wrote "that which is used, develops; that which is not used, wastes away." Regular exercise will produce long-term changes in many of your body's organs and functions. But at the heart of your improvement is your heart itself.

Obviously everyone desires to live long, but no man would be old. The clock ticks for all living things, and with each tick, things change. Exercise can't stop the clock, much less turn back its hands—but it can slow the tick and keep people healthy and vigorous, with the physiological capacities of much younger individuals. Exercise should help keep you young for your age. But does it actually work? The researchers had tested the men before and after exercise, finding devastating changes that included faster resting heart rates, higher systolic blood pressures, a drop in the heart's maximum pumping capacity, a rise in body fat, and a fall in muscle strength.

Vigor and health are wonderful, wonderful things, but longevity doesn't hurt, either. Cicero again: "No one is so old that he does not think he could live another year. Regular exercise prolongs life, according to the calculations of scientist, each mile you walk as part of a regular exercise program will extend your life by twenty-one minutes; these data even tell us that you'll gain about two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise, even if you don't start until middle age.

Scientists have gathered facts by evaluating elderly men in Hawaii, Seventh-Day Adventists in California, male and female residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, Harvard alumni, elderly American women, British joggers, middle-aged Englishmen, retired Dutchmen, and residents of Copenhagen—among others. Although the details vary, the bottom line is remarkably uniform: regular exercise prolongs life and reduces the burden of disease and disability in old age. In reviewing the data, Dr. J. Michael McGinnis of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion concludes that regular physical activity appears to reduce the overall mortality rate by more than a quarter and to increase the life expectancy by more than two years compared with the sedentary population's average.
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