Regular physical activity can lower many risk factors for coronary artery disease. Captain Miller, can you explain how exercise affects heart health?
Definitely, Dr. Phillips. Physical activity is an important part of reducing the risk for dyslipidemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and obesity, which are four major risk factors for coronary artery disease.
Exercise increases HDL, or good, cholesterol levels and helps control blood pressure. It also helps insulin absorb glucose into the body's cells, including the muscles, for energy. Muscles use glucose better than fat does, so building and using muscle through physical activity can help control blood glucose.
Perhaps most importantly, routine physical activity is a key element in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, which lowers the risk for all of the conditions that contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.
Aerobic exercise, which is exercise that uses oxygen to provide energy to large muscles, raises both heart and breathing rates. Examples are running, brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. These kinds of exercises are important for conditioning and strengthening the heart and lungs.
It's usually a good idea to start out slowly, and gradually build up to a full program. It's also important to select an activity that you really enjoy, and to use a self-monitoring device, such as a mobile app or a pedometer, to encourage you to stick with it. It's easier to maintain a routine when you have goals that are easy to track, and you're doing something that you enjoy.