Exercise turns back the clock on older hearts

by naturalh on March 15, 2018

742 exercise heart younger

Our muscles stiffen as we age, including the heart muscles. However, a new study showed that middle aged adults who took up moderate- to high-intensity exercise developed the heart flexibility of someone 15 to 20 years younger. But there is a sweet spot in midlife for this to work. Similar studies on 70-year-olds did not produce the same results.

Going into midlife with a sedentary lifestyle causes the heart to stiffen, shrink, and become less efficient at pumping blood and oxygenating the body. As a result, people develop shortness of breath, fatigue, edema, coughing, and other symptoms of heart disease.

For the two-year study, researchers tracked more than 50 volunteers who ranged in age from 45 to 64. They were healthy but sedentary. The participants were divided into two groups.

The first group did non-aerobic exercise three days a week, including basic yoga, balance training, and weight training.

The second group did moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise four days a week. Compared to the first group, this group saw dramatic improvements in their heart health.

Their hearts became noticeably more flexible and could process oxygen more efficiently. One researcher in the study said they were able to take a 50-year-old heart and turn back the clock to a 30- or 35-year-old heart.

These participants became stronger and fitter overall because their more flexible hearts were able to fill with more blood and pump more blood to the rest of their bodies during exercise.

The group who did the non-aerobic exercise three days a week saw no change in their heart flexibility or efficiency.

Interval training is key to a healthier heart

The key to the study subjects’ dramatic heart health improvement wasn’t just aerobic exercise, but aerobic exercise that incorporates interval training — short bursts of high intensity with short rests in between.

Although there are many ways to do high-intensity intervals, the study subjects did “4X4” training: four minutes at 95 percent of maximum ability followed by three minutes of active recovery, done four times.

The magic lies in pushing the heart to near its maximum ability, which forces it to work harder and pump more blood.

However, the window for this magic apparently closes if you wait too long. People in their mid-forties to early sixties still have flexible enough heart tissue to effect dramatic results. Once you are older, your blood vessels may be too rigid.

Interval training excellent for the aging brain

People who take up interval aerobic training typically report overall increased well being and feeling happier.

When the brain receives more blood flow and oxygen from a healthier heart, its function improves too. Also, interval training releases a number of hormones and neurochemicals that boost brain performance, improve mood, and lower inflammation.

For instance, endorphins released during exercise not only make people feel happier, they also dampen inflammation.

High-intensity interval training also boosts brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical necessary for the formation of memories and for learning and recall, important qualities to hang onto as we age.

People with sedentary lifestyles may feel daunted by the idea of high-intensity workouts. Luckily there are many options for guided workouts these days. For instance, Orange Theory Fitness is a chain of gyms around the country that show you your heart rate on a large monitor during guided workouts so you can begin to learn what sort of exertion is required to get your heart rate up to its near maximum.

Although it’s important to push your heart, it’s also important not to overdo your exercise routines. Over exercising raises inflammation and can trigger or exacerbate chronic inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. However, when you exercise within a healthy range, exercise has anti-inflammatory effects.


741 leaky gut equals artery plaque

Many people think the main keys to avoiding arterial plaque and heart disease are to watch cholesterol, avoid smoking, and exercise. But what is less known is how dependent your heart health is on your gut. If you have digestive problems, multiple food sensitivities, or chronic inflammation, these could be signs your gut health is putting your heart health at risk.

If you have digestive problems, chronic pain or inflammation, multiple food sensitivities, or an autoimmune condition you aren’t managing, chances are you have a leaky gut.

Leaky gut is also referred to as intestinal permeability. It means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed, damaged, and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, molds, and other antigens to enter into the bloodstream. Because these compounds don’t belong in the sterile environment of the bloodstream, the immune system views them as toxic and attacks them, causing inflammation. This chronic inflammation plays a role in many health conditions, which can include artery blockages and heart disease.

Inflammation from leaky gut clogs arteries

Inflammation from leaky gut can be a primary factor in causing arterial plaque and blockages. In fact, patients with heart disease show higher incidences of leaky gut compared to those who don’t have heart disease.

Inflammation creates lesions on arterial walls. The body “bandages” them up with cholesterol, which becomes plaque. This process is known as atherosclerosis

Inflammation not only promotes plaque in the arteries, it also weakens the stability of this plaque. Plaque stability is important to prevent heart attacks. Rupturing of plaque causes it come loose and block the artery, starving the heart of blood and leading to a heart attack.

Leaky gut is recognized as a primary factor in causing chronic inflammation that not only can clog your arteries, but also inflame your joints, cause skin issues, inflame your brain with symptoms of brain fog, depression, or memory loss, or trigger autoimmunity. Inflammation affects each of us differently depending on our genetics and environment.

Pathogens from leaky gut damage arteries

Leaky gut also promotes arterial plaque and heart disease in another way — by allowing infectious bacteria and other pathogens into the bloodstream.

Our guts are home to several pounds of a diverse array of gut bacteria. New research shows how vital these gut bacteria, called the microbiome, are to all facets of our health. The microbiome produces vital nutrients, activates anti-inflammatory plant compounds, regulates metabolism and immune function, and influences brain health and function.

Unfortunately, Americans have by far the unhealthiest microbiomes of the populations studied. Many Americans not only lack diversity in their healthy gut bacteria, but they also have too much bad, inflammatory bacteria in their guts.

Gut bacteria have also been linked to obesity, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels. People with healthy blood lipid levels also showed more diversity of gut bacteria.

Many people develop leaky gut in part because of poor stomach health and infection from h. pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. H. pylori has been linked with irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), which increases the risk of heart failure.

Don’t let your gut sabotage your heart. Ask my office how we can help you shore up the health of both with proven functional medicine strategies.


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