We hear frequently that exercise can help prevent heart disease, but can it reverse damage already present? According to a new study, the answer is yes. It found short bursts of high intensity exercise can actually undo early heart changes in people with type 2 diabetes. Lead author Michael Trenell believes there is no reason why such benefits wouldn’t also apply to non-diabetics. Type 2 diabetes harms the structure and function of the heart long before symptoms of heart disease develop. These insidious changes affect the left ventricle of the heart and other aspects, thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for diabetics.
Early Heart Damage Repaired in 12 Weeks
In a study published in Diabetologia, scientists evaluated the effects of exercise on 23 type 2 diabetic patients between the ages of 45 to 71. Half of the participants were assigned intermittent 90-second bouts of high-intensity cycling for 12 weeks. The other half underwent standard diabetic treatment. Researchers used imaging technology to evaluate the health of the heart as well as tested glucose tolerance to assess diabetes control.
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The results showed the high-intensity workouts significantly improved the heart’s structure and function. Particular benefits were noted in the left ventricle of the heart, the organ’s primary pump, which worked stronger and more efficiently. In addition, a small improvement was seen in blood sugar management.
“This study demonstrates, for the first time, that exercise can begin to reverse some of the early cardiac changes that are commonly found in people with type 2 diabetes,” the authors wrote. “Interestingly, the data also suggest that this type of high intensity intermittent exercise benefits both the heart and diabetes control, but the benefits appear to be greatest in the heart.”
Such remarkable findings will encourage people who may be reluctant to exercise for longer periods. “I am not saying short bursts of intense exercise are better than longer spells of moderate exercise – both are good,” says Trenell. “But it can be daunting for some people to contemplate a long period of exercise, so we have shown that short bouts can be effective.”
Other Evidence Heart Disease Can Be Reversed
The idea that heart disease can be reversed is not a novel one to Dean Ornish, M.D., founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. As the author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, he believes heart disease can be repaired through stringent adherence to a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, good nutrition, stress management and emotional support.
Ornish feels positive lifestyle changes can be so beneficial to the heart that even severe damage can be reversed. In his book The Spectrum, he says some of the patients waiting to undergo heart transplants who enrolled in his program improved to such an extent that the procedure was no longer needed. “Our studies show that, with significant lifestyle changes, blood flow to the heart and its ability to pump normally improve in less than a month and the frequency of chest pains fell by 90% in that time,” he asserts.
The results of the recent study together with the success Ornish has had in his program point to the fact that exercise can reverse heart damage. It’s amazing that an intervention that doesn’t involve surgery can have such a profound effect.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.