A heartfelt approach: Tackling CVD risk factors with physical activity

The WHO’s recommended level of physical exercise is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. However, on average, only four in ten adults in the European Union exercise regularly. Incorporating regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercises, strength training and flexibility exercises, into your routine could improve your heart health.

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their physical and mental health and well-being. With busy schedules and sedentary lifestyles increasingly becoming the norm, the importance of physical exercise cannot be overstated.1 Currently, a third of Europeans don’t meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for physical activity.2 If they did, this could potentially avert over 11.5 million new cases of noncommunicable diseases by 2050, including 3.8 million cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD).4 Physical inactivity has contributed to the rising prevalence of hypertension in Europe, but people who exercise or engage in physical activity can reduce their risk of developing heart disease and stroke.1, 5

Being physically active to prevent CVD

Exercise can play a crucial role in reducing the risk of CVD by positively impacting several risk factors associated with it; being active can reduce an individual’s risk of developing certain heart and circulatory diseases such as heart disease and stroke by as much as 35%.1, 6 Engaging in regular physical activity offers a powerful defence against CVD in a number of ways:

  1. Strengthening of the heart muscle – a stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort, making it easier for blood to travel to the lungs and throughout the body.7
  2. Lowering of blood pressure – physical activity helps to lower blood pressure by promoting better blood vessel function and reducing the resistance of blood flow.8 This means the strain on the heart and arteries is reduced because of the decrease in blood pressure.8
  3. Decreasing levels of LDL-cholesterol – engaging in physical activity can increase the levels of “good” HDL-cholesterol while lowering levels of “bad” LDL-cholesterol.9  This balance is important for reducing the build-up of fatty plaque in arteries.9
Enhancing rehabilitation with physical activity 

As well as reducing the risk of CVD, regular physical activity offers a multitude of benefits that may aide those who have already been diagnosed with CVD:

  1. Reduces the risk of secondary CV events – research has shown that participating in structured exercise programs as part of a cardiac rehabilitation may reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events and hospitalisations.10
  2. Supports stress reduction – stress can cause the arteries to tighten, which can increase the risk of heart disease.11 Exercise has been shown to reduce stress levels by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.12
  3. Improves heart function – engaging in exercise during rehabilitation may support individuals in regaining and improving their heart’s pumping ability, endurance, and overall functional capacity.13

As well as playing a pivotal role in the rehabilitation process for individuals recovering from cardiovascular events, physical activity can be a powerful tool in improving cardiovascular health. At Daiichi Sankyo we are driven to help improve patient outcomes, and that is why we are passionate about empowering people to take an active role in managing their health. Through raising awareness of holistic approaches to protect heart health and the importance of lifestyle choices in reducing the risk of CVD, we strive to support clinical communities and healthcare ecosystems to reduce the impact of CVD across Europe.

It is important to note that exercise programs should be tailored to best meet individual’s needs, medical conditions, and fitness levels. Consulting with a healthcare professional may be helpful to ensure your exercise plan is safe and effective.

World Health Organization. Physical Activity.
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity Last Accessed October 2023.

OECD and World Health Organization. Physical activity in Europe: Trends and patterns. Step Up!

Tackling the Burden of Insufficient Physical Activity in Europe.

https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/1d229f1f-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/1d229f1f-en#:~:text=On%20average%2C%20four%20in%20ten,in%20five%20(Figure%202.3) Last Accessed October 2023.
British Heart Foundation. 3 exercises that are best for heart health.
https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/activity/exercises-heart-health Last Accessed October 2023.
World Health Organization. (2023) New WHO/OECD report: increasing physical activity could save the EU billions annually.
https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/17-02-2023-new-who-oecd-report--increasing-physical-activity-could-save-the-eu-billions-annually Last Accessed October 2023.
Hanssen, H. et al. Personalized exercise prescription in the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension: a consensus document from the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC) and the ESC Council on Hypertension. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
https://academic.oup.com/eurjpc/article/29/1/205/6168858 Last Accessed October 2023.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Physical Activity and Your Heart: Benefits.
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart/physical-activity/benefits#:~:text=When%20done%20regularly%2C%20moderate%2D%20and,levels%20in%20your%20blood%20rise Last Accessed October 2023.
Mayo Clinic. Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045206 Last Accessed October 2023.
Heart UK. Exercise.
https://www.heartuk.org.uk/healthy-living/exercise Last Accessed October 2023.
British Heart Foundation. Coronary artery spasm: What is it and what are the treatment options.
https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/coronary-artery-spasm#:~:text=Stress%20can%20cause%20constriction%20of,within%20the%20blood%20vessel%20wall Last Accessed October 2023.
Pinkard, K., et al. Effects of exercise to improve cardiovascular health.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557987/#:~:text=Other%20studies%20have%20shown%20that,)%20(101%2C%20104 Last Accessed October 2023.

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