The Damage Done by a Lack of Exercise, and Digging Yourself Out of the Hole

How much harm is done - and how quickly - by failing to maintain an exercise program? How long does it take to reverse those consequences? No-one has the final answer to those questions, firm numbers derived from the way in which the human body functions. We can look at the results of studies such as this one with some interest, however. We might compare this with studies of weight and mortality, in which the evidence suggests that lasting harm is done by carrying excess fat tissue over years, even if lost later.

By analyzing reported physical activity levels over time in more than 11,000 American adults, researchers conclude that increasing physical activity to recommended levels over as few as six years in middle age is associated with a significantly decreased risk of heart failure. The same analysis found that as little as six years without physical activity in middle age was linked to an increased risk of the disorder. "In everyday terms our findings suggest that consistently participating in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, such as brisk walking or biking, in middle age may be enough to reduce your heart failure risk by 31 percent. Additionally, going from no exercise to recommended activity levels over six years in middle age may reduce heart failure risk by 23 percent."

The researchers caution that their study was observational, meaning the results can't and don't show a direct cause-and-effect link between exercise and heart failure. But the trends observed in data gathered on middle-aged adults suggest that it may never be too late to reduce the risk of heart failure with moderate exercise. "Unlike other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, we don't have specifically effective drugs to prevent heart failure, so we need to identify and verify effective strategies for prevention and emphasize these to the public." There are drugs used to treat heart failure, such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, but they are essentially "secondary" prevention drugs, working to reduce the heart's workload after dysfunction is already there.

The researchers used data already gathered from 11,351 participants in the long term Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, recruited from 1987 to 1989. The participants' average age was 60, and 57 percent were women. Participants were monitored annually for an average of 19 years for cardiovascular disease events such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure using telephone interviews, hospital records and death certificates. Over the course of the study there were 1,693 hospitalizations and 57 deaths due to heart failure.

In addition to those measures, at the first and third ARIC study visits (six years apart), each participant filled out a questionnaire, which asked them to evaluate their physical activity levels, which were then categorized as poor, intermediate or "recommended," in alignment with guidelines issued by the American Heart Association. The "recommended" amount is at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity or at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. One to 74 minutes per week of vigorous intensity or one to 149 minutes per week of moderate exercise per week counted as intermediate level activity. And physical activity qualified as "poor" if there was no exercise at all.

Heart failure risk decreased by about 12 percent in the 2,702 participants who increased their physical activity category from poor to intermediate or recommended, or from intermediate to recommended, compared with those with consistently poor or intermediate activity ratings. Conversely, heart failure risk increased by 18 percent in the 2,530 participants who reported decreased physical activity from visit one to visit three, compared with those with consistently recommended or intermediate activity levels.



What if there were ways other than exercise to strengthen the heart?

CoQ10: This is nutrient works wonders to energize the heart, reduce oxidized fat in blood vessels, and destroy free radicals lurking in the heart. This nutrient alone helps 50% of my patients get high blood pressure back to normal. And did you know that the majority of people with heart disease are deficient in CoQ10?1
To heal and energize your heart, take 50 mg a day of the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 (it's eight times more powerful than the old ubiquinone form). Because CoQ10 is a fat-soluble nutrient, take it with fat like cod liver oil, Sacha Inchi oil, almond butter or olive oil to make sure it's absorbed well.

L-Carnitine: Every form of life depends on carnitine for energy production within cells. And in your heart, carnitine reduces arterial plaque, lowers LDL and raises HDL, for both healthy people and those with heart disease.
You get carnitine from eating red meat and natural dairy products, but if you don't eat enough, you'll want to take at least 500 mg of L-carnitine as a supplement every day. It's important to take the L-carnitine form and not the synthetic D,L-carnitine, which interferes with the natural action of carnitine.

L-Arginine: This naturally occurring amino acid improves blood flow because it breaks down into nitric oxide, which helps dilate your blood vessels and keep them flexible so you can have normal blood pressure. L-arginine also helps build muscle (remember, the heart is a muscle).
Good sources are red meat, fish, chicken, beans, chocolate, raisins, nuts, and sesame and sunflower seeds. To supplement, take 500 mg each day, and like carnitine, only take the L form.

Tocopherols and Tocotrienols: One study of people who took vitamin E (100 IU or more) had 40 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.2,3 The tocopherols and tocotrienols in vitamin E have a lot of heart-protective qualities. They lower C-reactive protein, a marker for heart disease, and they raise HDL.
You can get vitamin E by eating plenty of nuts, eggs, and dark leafy green vegetables. Other excellent sources are palm oil and coconut oil. My favorite way to get tocotrienols is annatto oil. To supplement, take 500 IU with 5 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols each day.

Vitamin C: It's very simple... Studies find a link between low levels of vitamin C and risk of stroke.4 And those who get the most vitamin C show a dramatic decline in death from heart disease. For heart protection, take 1,500 mg twice a day with food.

Control Oxidation - There are four heart-smart antioxidants for this:

Alpha lipoic acid: It's called the "universal antioxidant because it recycles and extends the life of other nutrients like vitamin C and E. Take 100 mg a day.

Carnosine: This is important for heart muscle and nerve support. Take 500 mg twice a day.

Lycopene: Helps your heart and blood vessels. Also prevents cardiovascular disease by stopping the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. All you need is 20 mg a day.

Omega 3: This essential fatty acid (meaning you can't make it in your body) can prevent heart disease by protecting your cardiovascular system and lowering triglycerides. Eat fresh fish twice a week and get at least 3 to 5 grams of omega-3 every day.

Lower Homocysteine - You can't feel atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries." But a metabolic by-product called homocysteine is a major cause of inflammation in your blood vessels, which clogs and damages arteries, causing atherosclerosis.

Fortunately, I have not had a single case of elevated homocysteine that couldn't be corrected with the right combination of natural supplements. Here's what I use with my patients. (Amounts are daily.) You can find these at your local health-food store:

Vitamin B12 - 500 mcg

Folic acid (B9) - 800 mcg

Vitamin B6 - 50 mg

TMG (Trimethylglycine) - 1000 mg

Al Sears, MD

The group who did neither experienced no benefit, but both the exercise and the curcumin groups significantly boosted endothelial function. The researchers reported: "The magnitude of the improvement achieved by curcumin treatment was comparable to that obtained with exercise. Therefore, regular ingestion of curcumin could be a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease" at least in postmenopausal women, who were the subjects of this study. "Furthermore, [their] results suggest that curcumin may be a potential alternative treatment for patients who are unable to exercise."

Ideally, we'd both eat curcumin and exercise.

Posted by: bob at May 23rd, 2018 6:57 AM
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