“Our work provides new evidence on the potency of exercise as a heart protector, both in the short and the long term. Just don’t go for more than four or five days without exercising. Use it or lose it,” Dick Thijssen, lead author of the study, explained.
Thijssen and his team from Liverpool John Moores University conducted a review of studies on how physical activity protects the heart. Researchers carried out studies on mice and rats to determine whether exercise can decrease the size of a heart attack or not. In the study, the researchers focused on the studies where scientists had prompted a heart attack in rats by blocking an artery in the heart and then observed the size of a heart attack or evaluated how much tissue died. The researchers of the reviewed studies conducted this test in animals that just finished exercising. After that, they compared them with animals that did not exercise at all.
In one of the studies reviewed, blood was taken from humans after physical activity and after a period of rest and then was transfused through the blood vessels of live rabbits' hearts. Then, an artery of the hearts of the rabbits was blocked, imitating a heart attack. The results showed that those rabbits that had the human blood taken after exercise had a smaller heart attack compared to those that had human blood after a period of rest.
The researchers of the review then concluded that all of the studies showed that even one session of exercise is linked with a smaller heart attack. In addition, they found that the ability of exercise to decrease the size of a heart attack lasts for a few more days. It is thought that exercise releases a blood-borne substance that plays a role in making a heart attack smaller after exercise. These benefits occurred in the absences of changes in heart risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight, or improved heart function.
“When you regularly perform exercise, it seems that the immediate protection is constantly present. Unfortunately, but also somewhat expected, the immediate benefits of exercise last for four to five days,” Thijssen said.
Almost all of the studies that evaluated the immediate effects of exercise used moderate to high-intensity endurance physical activity for approximately one hour.
“We don't know yet whether other types of exercise or other durations, would provide different degrees of benefit. This area is ripe for future research,” he said.
Heart disease kills around 610,000 people in the United States each year, which is equivalent to one in every four deaths. Consequently, it is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease as it kills more than 370,00 people each year. Meanwhile, there about 790,000 people in the United States who experience a heart attack annually, and approximately 15 percent of them will die because of it. A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is cut off. The cells in the heart muscle that do not get enough oxygen-carrying blood will start to die and the longer it continues without treatments to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. The primary signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, and other symptoms like breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
Read more stories on the how to support heart health at Heart.news.