A study shows that exercise reduces stressful brain activity, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease CNN

A study shows that exercise reduces stressful brain activity, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease CNN

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It’s well-known that exercise is good for your mental health and heart health, and now a new study suggests that all three work together.

In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, it is also associated with decreased stress signals in the brain, leading to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the study.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 50,000 adults around the age of 60 from the Mass General Brigham Biobank, according to the study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study looked at a survey given to participants about their physical activity, imaging of their brains to track stress-related activity, and digital records of cardiovascular events.

“Individuals who exercise more have a progressive reduction in stress-related signals in the brain,” said lead study author Dr. Ahmed Tawakkol, a cardiologist at Mass General Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“We found good associations that exercise appears to work in part to reduce heart disease risk by reducing stress-related signals,” he added.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular disease prevention and wellness at the National Jewish Health Center in Denver, said everyone should take notice whenever studies emerge showing this kind of improvement resulting from a lifestyle change. Freeman was not involved in this study.

“These are incredibly cost effective and sizable The improvements are amazing—and often better than many medications—and we should have these tools in our arsenal for ready use.

He added that Tawakkol and his team also wanted to know whether people with more stress-related signals in the brain would get a greater benefit from exercise.

“Surprisingly, we also found a greater than two-fold increase in the benefits of exercise among individuals with depression compared to individuals who were not depressed or had no history of depression,” Tawakkol said.

He added that the relationship between the amount of exercise and lower cardiovascular disease risk also varies depending on whether a person has a history of depression.

For people with no history of depression, the benefit of exercise in reducing cardiovascular disease stabilized after about 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. But for people with depression, the benefits continued as they spent more time, Tawakkol said.

Oleg Preslavtsev/Moment RF/Getty Images

Find exercises you’ll enjoy and do them regularly, said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular disease prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health Center in Denver. He did not participate in the study.

He added that these benefits are in addition to the psychological benefits that researchers already know that exercise provides.

“We know that depression is an important risk factor for heart disease and is also one of the most common stress-related conditions,” said study co-author Dr. Carmel Choi, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Although some people may be more vulnerable to stress and its health consequences, here we see that they may also benefit more Of exercise and its effects in modifying stress. “Which is encouraging,” she added in an email.

Tawakkol said that exercise reduced stress signals and increased prefrontal cortical signals.

“Both are attractive changes in the brain,” he said.

Tawakkol said that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for executive function, which is the cognitive processes that control behavior.

Stress signals in the brain are linked to things like inflammation, He added that high activity of the sympathetic nervous system, high blood pressure, and diseases that increase the thickness or hardening of the arteries.

Tawakkol said exercise appears to partly reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing stress signals.

However, these results are only correlations. He said that because the researchers monitored the participants rather than conducting a randomized trial with a control group, they couldn’t say with certainty that exercise caused the reductions or what the mechanisms were behind it.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to have a good workout routine, and it can help you get going, Freeman said.

“It turns out that humans are built to move a lot, and when we do — especially when we’re outside and in the trees — there’s been data to suggest that these all have very significant stress-relieving effects.”

Freeman recommends checking with your doctor first and trying to do 30 minutes of non-breathing physical activity a day — it doesn’t matter what that activity is.

“If you don’t enjoy walking, biking, swimming, or whatever, don’t do it. But find a way to do physical activity that you really enjoy.

Freeman added: Just make sure it’s hard for you, no matter your fitness level. If you can’t speak in complete sentences while exercising, it might be time to make it more difficult, he said.

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