Let's Talk About... Chronic and Degenerative Diseases of the Cardiovascular System.

I know I talk a lot about having the "body you want" and this is frequently related to the physical appearance, bodyfat to lean mass ratio, and other slightly less easily quantified things like energy level and overall sense of well-being. One thing that we don't talk about frequently is the impact that lifestyle has on health. By health I mean long term health and longevity - feeling good and not being sick, including what's going on inside your body where you can't see. 

According to the book Physiology of Sport and Exercise, "Chronic and degenerative diseases of the cardiovascular system are the major cause of serious illness and death in the United States." Additionally, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) accounted for 34.5% of all deaths in the US in 2006! That's one out of every 2.9 deaths. In the 1970s, CVD accounted for over 50% of all deaths. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is responsible for 17% of deaths (2006) but was responsible for almost a third of deaths in the 1970s. CHD is 53% of CVD deaths each year. 

A healthy amount of exercise and being mindful of your nutrition are one of the best things you can do to improve your health and extend your quality of life. So what is a "healthy amount of exercise"? Here are part of the ACSM's exercise guidelines for adults for 2011.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.  
  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.
  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
  • Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.
  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective.
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor Exercise

  • Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week.
  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults.
  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.

Risk Factors

So how do you know if you're at risk for cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease? Here are some risk factors you can change to help reduce your risk:
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Hypertension
  • Abnormal blood lipids or proteins
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Diabetes (type2) and insulin resistance

With a list like that it seems like it would be pretty easy for us all to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease but as a society we don't worry as much about our health and quality of life as we do how much money we make or whether we are playing the latest video games. The health of our cardiovascular systems almost never crosses our minds unless we have a scare or know someone else who does. People begrudgingly say "my doctor told me to lose weight" and act as though they're being punished. 150 minutes a week is all it takes to make a big difference in your health according to the ACSM. That's only 2 and a half hours. Do you have 2 and a half hours a week to help yourself live a long and happy life?

Kenney, W. Larry; Wilmore, Jack; Costill, David (2014-06-18). Physiology of Sport and Exercise, Fifth Edition (Kindle Locations 19146-19147). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition

Tissue Maintenance

Here is the first video in my Tissue Maintenance series! Check it out! Video #2 is coming soon!