What is cardiovascular disease (cvd)?
The most common CVD’s include:
- Coronary heart disease: An unusual narrowing of the coronary artery that limits blood flow into the heart. Often caused by Atherosclerosis – a build-up of fatty plaque within a blood vessel.
- Hypertension (High blood pressure): An excessive blood force or pressure exerted against the artery walls. Measured as systolic/diastolic pressure, HTN is diagnosed when blood pressure exceeds 140/90mmHg.
- Cardiac Arrest: An abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness.
- Heart Failure: A chronic condition in which the heart muscle becomes permanently damaged or dysfunctional.
- Arrhythmia: Improper or irregular beating of the heart
- Peripheral Artery Disease: Similar to coronary heart disease, PAD is the narrowing of circulatory vessels due to the build-up of fatty plaques.
- Stroke: Interruption of the brains necessary blood supply. When blood supply is affected, brain tissue can begin to die within minutes, causing permanent impairment.
- Congenital disease: Heart abnormalities that develop before birth.
Unfortunately, CVD is extremely prevalent, with more than 1.1 million Australian adults self-reporting one or more CVD’s in 2017-2018. In the same year, CVD accounted for more than 25% of Australian deaths. This is despite a continued decline in the number of CVD associated deaths.
What are some risk factors of CVD
Many of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease are modifiable – and healthy lifestyle choices are often enough to reduce our risk of diagnosis.
That said, more than 90% of Australians report at least one risk factor for CVD. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of diagnosis.
Modifiable risk factors include:
– High cholesterol
– High blood pressure
– Physical inactivity
– Being overweight
– Poor diet
The downside of CVD is that some risk factors are well out of control. Risk of CVD increases with age, men are at higher risk than women, and a family history of CVD is also associated with a higher risk of mortality. Moreover, Indigenous Australians are 1.7x more likely to die as a result of CVD.
Why is exercise good for cardiovascular disease?
Exercise is great for treating and preventing CVD – and the reason is kind of obvious. If you were to look-over the modifiable risk factors that are listed above, exercise is proven to positively affect almost all of them! Cholesterol, blood pressure, being overweight and symptoms/risk of diabetes are all improved when physical activity is increased. There are even links to suggest that physical activity can help reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal!
What is the right type of exercise?
As is for most conditions, any exercise is better than none. So if you’re at a point where you don’t feel comfortable exercising for very long – that’s okay! Start with a little, and build up.
The end goal is to be physically active on most, if not all days of the week, accumulating 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. If you’re new to exercise, it’s best to cap the intensity here, although more seasoned exercisers can perform an exercise at higher intensities and cut the recommended guidelines in half! (75-150 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week). Exercises can be general – walking, running. Swimming, cycling – as these exercises are great for improving our cardiovascular fitness and function. You should also aim to perform 1-2x resistance-based exercise sessions. Things like push-ups, bodyweight squats, sit-ups. These exercises will increase the body’s overall muscle mass and help manage your overall health.
If you’re unsure, it’s always best to consult your GP or an accredited exercise physiologist for guidance on where to start, or how to start. But be sure, there is actually very little risk involved when exercising with CVD.