Coronary heart disease and physical activity
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as coronary artery disease, is the leading cause of death in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, accounting for 13% of all deaths and 35% of deaths from cardiovascular disease . CHD is the accumulation of different substances (e.g. fatty material) forming a plaque build-up on the walls of coronary arteries. The narrowing of these blood vessels decreases the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to the heart muscle which may induce symptoms like chest pain and discomfort . The main modifiable risk factors are physical inactivity, smoking, high blood pressure, blood lipid disorders, overweight/obesity and diabetes .
What are the effects of physical activity on coronary heart disease?
Physical activity decreases inflammation and limits the narrowing and the stiffness of the blood vessels, through the involvement of different vasoregulative factors [4, 5]. It also modifies heart muscle function, especially to increase its contractility and stroke volume. Blood pressure and heart rate are reduced by physical activity via, among other factors, a better regulation of the autonomous nervous system . Exercise training helps to prevent other CHD risk factors such as obesity and its associated diseases (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, blood lipid disorders). Physical activity also helps patients to develop and maintain an active and healthier lifestyle, and consequently increase their psychological wellbeing and lower future cardiovascular risk.
What are the risks?
The risk of cardiovascular events during supervised physical activity is relatively low and ranges from 1/50 000 to 1/750 000 person-hours of exercise. Daily strenuous training increases the risk of death . It is therefore recommended to perform adapted and supervised physical activity, especially in the first months after a diagnosis of CHD.
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Authors & experts
Experts: Charles Delagardelle3, Axel Urhausen4.
1 Luxembourg Institute of Health, Sports Medicine Research Laboratory, L-1460 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
2 Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Policlinique Médicale Universitaire, CH-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland
3 Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, Service de cardiologie, L-1210 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
4 Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg - Clinique d'Eich, Clinique du Sport, L-1460 Luxembourg, Luxembourg