How Cardio Reduces Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Once you come to understand that the heart is a muscle like any other, you can clearly see why it needs exercise to gain strength. Muscles that aren’t used regularly can become weaker and atrophy. A fit heart can pump more blood through the body and will continue to work at optimal efficiency with little to no strain. This can help you stay healthier for longer.

Exercising regularly also helps to keep blood vessels and arteries flexible, ensuring good blood flow and normal blood pressure. If you’re doing cardio with other people, make sure you know how to watch out for others and that you’re able to administer CPR if necessary. 

What is cardio?

Cardio is any rhythmic movement or activity that raises your heart rate to what is referred to as your “target heart rate zone.” This is where you burn the most calories and fat. The American Heart Association (AHA) separates cardio exercise into two categories, moderate intensity and vigorous intensity. The time recommended for cardio is relative to the intensity. (1)

  • Moderate intensity = 150 minutes per week (2½ hours). This could be exercising 30 minutes a day, at least five times a week. Moderate intensity activities include walking, brisk cycling or even low-impact dancing. Daily activities such as household chores that raise your heart rate can also count as cardio exercises. If your heart is beating faster, then chances are you are doing cardio. (1)
  • Vigorous intensity = 75 minutes per week (1¼ hours). This could be exercising for 25 minutes a day, five days a week. Vigorous intensity exercises could include running, fast cycling, or cross-country skiing. (1)

In general, for any cardio to help make a genuine impact on your heart health, you’ll want to try and be active for longer than 10 minutes at a time. Another recommendation from the AHA is to participate in cardio (or aerobic activity) for about 40 minutes a day, three to four times a week. This activity could be brisk walking, jogging, dancing, or vacuuming and mopping your house. (1)

You don’t have to be an expert and know all about your Hs and Ts to put in place the habits you need to have a healthy heart. Cardio-based exercise can help reduce the possible risk of heart disease in the following ways:

Improve blood flow

Consistent cardio exercise is said to enable better blood flow in the small vessels around the heart. Overtime, this is where blockages of fatty deposits can build up. Allowing for better blood flow and circulation in these places could help to prevent heart attacks. 

Cardio-based activity can even cause the body to make different physical connections with these small blood vessels. This means that the blood has even more ways to make its way to where it’s supposed to go. 

Lower cholesterol

There are many indicators that exercise is linked to positive improvements in cholesterol. These improvements help to increase the amount of healthy high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, which is said to be the “good” kind. There is also a possibility of cardio lowering the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. (2)

While many other factors such as diet, genetics and medication play a part in your cholesterol levels, studies have shown that cardio/aerobic exercise should be used in conjunction with other healthy habits to stabilize cholesterol levels. Having healthy cholesterol levels can help prevent the risk of heart disease. (2) (3)

Lower blood pressure

Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and better at pumping blood. This can help lower the pressure in your arteries. Having this pressure relieved can make a huge difference in your overall heart health. (4)

Being more active can help lower your systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in a blood pressure reading. This works almost as well as many blood pressure medications. For some, getting in the right amount of exercise is enough to reduce the need for medication. (5)

If your blood pressure isn’t an issue, cardio exercise can still prevent it from rising as you get older. To keep your blood pressure low, you still need to exercise on a regular basis. They say it takes roughly around one to three months of consistent exercise to make a difference in your heart health and blood pressure. As long as you continue to exercise, you should continue to reap the benefits. (5)

Less likely to smoke

For those trying to quit smoking, exercise can be a valuable tool. It keeps your body active and keeps you moving, both of which can help to fight off any urges you have to pick up a cigarette. The American Lung Association recommends finding a cardio-based activity such as jogging, walking, or dancing to help to keep you occupied while quitting and to help with possible weight gain while quitting. 

Maintaining good body weight

Being overweight can put excessive strain on your heart, can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, and can cause damage to your blood vessels, which could lead to serious heart issues. This is why maintaining a healthy body weight is important for your heart health. (6) 

One of the best ways to lose weight, and to maintain the correct weight, is through cardio-exercise. As established above, cardio helps to increase your heart rate which helps to burn more calories and fat. By partaking in these cardio-based activities not only are you strengthening your heart, but you’re helping to keep your weight where it should be. This in turn can help with your heart health. It’s a healthy cycle that goes on and on and it starts with you. 

Protect your heart

There are many reasons why cardio exercise is crucial for your heart health. The most important ones, as discussed above, could be the difference between living a long and healthy life and dealing with persistent issues that could have serious long-term consequences. Keep your heart healthy by staying active through cardio activities, make sure to eat well and consult your doctor about any serious questions or issues you may have. 

References

  1. “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids,” Source: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
  2. “Impact of exercise on blood lipids and lipoproteins,” Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21291678/
  3. “Exercise for Prevention and Relief of Cardiovascular Disease: Prognoses, Mechanisms, and Approaches,” Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6481017/#B36
  4. “15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure,” Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716
  5. “Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure,” Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045206
  6. “Managing Weight to Control High Blood Pressure,” Source: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-weight-to-control-high-blood-pressure