Heart disease: Best exercise to lower the risk of developing the deadly condition

Heart disease is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that affect a person’s heart. It can trigger deadly conditions such as a heart attack or heart failure. It is well understood that leading a healthy lifestyle can ward off the risk of developing the deadly health condition. Exercise plays an essential role in reducing the risk – what is the best exercise?

According to Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, resident cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, the general consensus is that anything is better than nothing, and any activity that gets a person’s heart rate up and makes them breathe a little harder will offer some protection against heart disease.

Rising evidence makes a strong case for high intensity interval training (HIIT) in particular, however. As Dr Lopez-Jimenez reports, increasing evidence suggests HIIT training provides “added metabolic benefits”.

According to Dr Lopez-Jimenez, HIIT training forms an essential part of cardiac rehabilitation programmes. The benefits even extend to people who have had heart disease and a heart attack.

She said: “There is also some evidence that 30 minutes of even 20 minutes of high intensity interval training has more benefits than the same amount or even longer of just fast walking.”

HIIT training will also benefit people who are struggling to lose weight

Dr Lopez-Jimenez, cardiologist

As she explained, most sets of exercise equipment come with a HIIT preset for or alternatively people can do it around their neighbourhood. It consists of doing bursts of intense exercise, followed by intermittent periods of slowing down. This temporarily ramps up a person’s metabolism and this has been shown to provide innumerable health benefits such as giving longer diabetic control throughout the day, said Dr Lopez-Jimenez.

HIIT training will also benefit people who are struggling to lose weight, despite engaging in 30 to 40 minutes of exercise a day and eating a healthy, balanced diet. “This will help to jumpstart the metabolism,” she said.

What counts as interval training?

Interval training is simply alternating short bursts (approximately 30 seconds) of intense activity with longer intervals (three to four minutes) of less intense activity, explained Mayo Clinic. This could be incorporating short bursts of jogging into regular brisk walks, noted the heath body.

For people that have barriers to exercise such as planta fascitis, or a bad knee, being creative and finding things that they can do will also provide protective benefits for heart health, explained Dr Lopez-Jimenez.

“Even if you are not a strong swimmer, if you have access to a pool and have bad knees you can tread in deep water and the harder you push the more resistance you have,” she explained.

Adding: “That is a great form of exercise that is very low impact.”

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

According to the NHS, the common symptom of heart disease is chest pain (angina).

This can be a mild, uncomfortable feeling similar to indigestion.

“However, a severe angina attack can cause a painful feeling of heaviness or tightness, usually in the centre of the chest, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach,” explained the health body.

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