Duke Study Reveals Benefits of Cardiovascular Health

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A Duke University study determined that moderate exercise cubs the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, thus cutting the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

A few months after my July, 2006 heart attack, I was presented with a diploma. I had graduated from cardiac rehabilitation and was about to advance to the cardiac step-down exercise program I still follow today.

“When you go into the gym, you don’t have to overdo it,’’ I was told over and over again. “We want your exercise program to be moderately hard, but not hard.’’

In other words, I don’t need to do 40 minutes on the treadmill at 10 percent elevation and a speed of 4.7 three times a week. No elevation and 25-30 minutes at 3.3 would certainly suffice. Nor would I need to roll at 120 steps a minute on the cross-trainer. Maybe cardiologists would recommend 1,000 or so steps at 90 per minute.

They key is to exercise, and at age 56, recovering from a cardiac event, is to maintain an active lifestyle. Let the younger set try to set records on the machines. My job is to maintain cardiovascular health, the same way yours is to educate your patients to do the same.

All this was confirmed by a Duke University study that was released this past December and published at that time in The American Journal of Cardiology. I remember agreeing with its findings about “moderate exercise curbing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome,’’ thus cutting the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

That study again caught my attention in the July issue of Cooking Light, in which we often find many of the heart-healthy recipes upon which we base our diet; it consisted of 240 40 to 65 year-olds assigned to an 8- to 9-month program of either no exercise, walking the equivalent of 11 miles per week or jogging the equivalent of 17 miles per week.

Findings included the moderate exercise, such as walking, lowered triglycerides, a risk factor in heart disease, by 7 percent more than the more vigorous exercise.

There were two reasons for this:

  • One exercises for a longer period of time when walking rather than jogging.
  • High-intensity exercise relies on stored carbohydrates for energy, while lower-inensity exercising uses fat stores, thus burning up triglycerides that otherwise might remain in the blood and contribute to the clogging of arteries.

Duke cardiologist William Kraus summed up the findings. “Some exercise is better than none,’’ he said. “More exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise is disastrous.’’

The findings of this study are encouraging to someone dealing with cardiovascular disease, its management and recovery. I will also confirm, as a patient, the theory behind the findings certainly fit reality.

Obviously diet and medication have also helped me keep my cholesterol numbers where they need to be. Being active has certainly contributed as well. Most gyms and health clubs deal seriously with the cardiac step-down format of exercise. The staff will keep a close eye on your patients, encourage them to keep up their program and enjoy what they are doing while excercising.

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