Exercise And Heart Disease
I think it would be safe to say that if you have bought this book and read it this far, I don’t need to convince you about the benefits of exercise for heart disease. Exercise has both direct and indirect benefits in reducing heart disease risk. Through exercise, most of the modifiable risk factors can be better controlled. It helps lower your blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and body weight, which is how it indirectly helps in reducing heart disease. Besides these, exercise has a direct effect on the functioning of the heart, and allows it to work more efficiently over a longer period of time. With regular exercise, your heart rate at rest is reduced, but the amount of blood pumped during each beat actually increases. In simple words, your heart pumps more efficiently. Besides this, regular exercise causes your blood to become ‘less sticky’, which is beneficial in preventing a clot (thrombus) which leads to a heart attack. It also modifies the release of some hormones such as adrenaline, and conditions your heart to better deal with emergencies arising out of abnormal heart rhythms.
Dr. Carlton Pereira is a young ENT surgeon whom I know well, and when I saw him after a gap of a year, I could barely recognize him. Earlier, he was on the heavy side, and now he looked like a lean, mean fighting machine. I was curious as to why and how he had lost weight, so I asked him. ‘I did a lipid profile and my triglycerides were over 600 mg/dl, 631 to be precise. That was about a year ago, and it frightened the hell out of me.
I was advised to start medication, but I was determined to get the values under control through exercise,’ was his answer. Triglycerides should ideally be below 150mg/ dl, and levels over 600 are clearly dangerous. If he were my patient, I would have insisted that he start medication and continue lifestyle modification simultaneously, but then as the saying goes, ‘Doctors never make good patients.’
Carlton embarked on a serious exercise program, where he jogged four times a week, for 40 minutes each, and in a span of six months he lost about 10 kg. His triglycerides showed an improvement, and this spurred him on further. He took up running in a big way, and over the last six months had completed four halfmarathons, and was feeling on top of the world. In total, he lost more than 15 kg, and what’s more impressive is that his triglycerides dropped a massive 400 plus points, and were now 215 mg/dl.
Exercise is very potent in reducing triglycerides, as well as raising the good HDL cholesterol levels. In the Indian setting that’s very important, since we have a tendency to have low HDL levels and high triglycerides. It’s safe to say that Dr Pereira is now a lifelong runner and preaches it to all of his patients, whether they come for a sore throat, a nasal polyp, or an ear infection!
– Excerpts from Dr Aashish Contractor’s book ‘THE HEART TRUTH’