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Too Much Exercise May Speed Heart Failure

September 08, 2007 | 51,622 views

It‘s fairly common knowledge that exercise can be a key part of managing high blood pressure and heart disease, but a new animal study suggests excessive exercise can have the opposite effect.

The study, involving rats with high blood pressure, found that excessive exercise in fact worsened the rats’ blood pressure and progression to heart failure. The reasons for these findings are still unclear, however, and the implications for humans are also uncertain.

According to the researchers, their findings should raise awareness of the potential harm intense exercise might do to people with untreated high blood pressure.

Hypertension August, 2007; 50(2):410-6

MSNBC August 16, 2007



Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Amazing coincidence, as this study was published after one of the best American marathoners ever, Alberto Salazer, nearly died from a heart attack on June 30, 2007 .  He won the New York City Marathon the first time he entered it in 1980, in 2:09.41, and the following year he won it in a world record time of 2:08:13. He was the best US distance runner in the early 80's by far. He also won the Comrades 54 mile marathon in 1994.  That's why it was shocking that he would have a heart attack at the age of 49 -- four years younger than me -- and he nearly died.  This should be a VERY powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise, that it may actually be counterproductive, and NOT providing you with all the benefits you need.

So, although nearly everyone reading this is UNDER exercising, it is crucial to understand that you can indeed overexercise. So just like Goldilocks, there is an ideal window that you want to shoot for.

This article also comes just days after I posted another piece on the American College of Sports Medicine’s new guidelines on exercise, stating it must be “tough” if you are going to see physiological benefits. This may seem confusing to some of you, so let’s reiterate a couple of key points you should always keep in mind: moderation, and individualization.

Although this particular study was done on animals, and the implications for humans are uncertain, there have been other studies implicating excessive exercise as a contributing factor to the onset of disease, such as cancer. (My guess is that your antioxidant threshold is exceeded, or that micronutrients are consumed at a level that cannot be easily replaced.)

The point is, too much of something that is normally good for you can have the reverse effect. This is really quite a profound concept, so much so that one researcher actually wrote a book about it. One of my early mentors, Dr. Tom Stone, who died a few weeks ago, first talked about it. The book is called, amazingly enough, The Reverse Effect. It is a fascinating book that is absolutely counterintuitive.

A simple analogy to explain this effect is water. You wouldn’t last more than a few days without water. But if you drank a few gallons in an hour, you’d die, as your heart would not be able to sustain its electrical activity due to sodium imbalances. (This actually happens to a surprisingly large number of endurance athletes who simply drink too much during a race.) Well, just like water, you can overdo it with exercise.

However, excess is not the problem for most people in America. Be careful not to fall into the trap of using a study like this to justify inactivity and resistance to exercise. This study is meant more for regular exercisers like myself who, before I wised up, would OVER exercise.  There are millions of people who are simply over-doing it and would greatly benefit by CUTTING BACK on their exercise.

Exercise is absolutely necessary for high-level wellness, but reducing your risk of heart disease or cancer is usually not the main reason you exercise. You exercise because it makes you feel better, and for most, it helps keep your weight at an optimal level. It’s also one of the best treatments for insomnia and reducing insulin resistance, as well as being a wonderful aid in the treatment of depression. So the reasons to exercise are many.

If you start slow, and most importantly, listen to your body, you shouldn’t run into the problem of exerting yourself excessively. And, naturally, you should check your blood pressure often.

How to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure

The National Blood Pressure Education Program (NBPEP) recommends these methods to lower blood pressure:

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise
    • Cut back on saturated fats
    • Limit alcohol and sodium
    • Increase dietary potassium
    • Consume recommended levels of fruits and vegetables

Many studies have shown the above tactics to be very effective in those who have mild to moderate high blood pressure problems. Following the guidelines discussed in my nutrition plan will normalize blood pressure in about 75 percent of people.

The remaining individuals' high blood pressure is often caused by some type of emotional stress. This causes excessive output of the adrenals, which responds very favorably to normalization of these emotional stresses. My approach to addressing emotional stresses is through psychological acupressure tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

Nutritionally, omega-3 fats are important, and vitamin D may be useful in normalizing high blood pressure as well.

“Bullet-Proof” Your Heart With the Right Type of Exercise

One of the best forms of exercise to protect your heart is short bursts of exertion, followed by periods of rest.

There are two problems with long-duration, aerobic exercise:

1. It can actually encourage your body to store fat under certain circumstances.
2. And, if you aren't careful and use other methods of training, you can actually shrink your heart and lungs, increasing your risk of heart attack.

My new favorite resource for practical exercise assistance is Ryan Lee.  I have been supplementing my own cardio workouts with his four-minute exercise program and have been amazingly impressed.  He has has developed an amazing set of resources that will help you escape the need for hour-long cardio workouts.  Clearly the newest trend in exercise is developing regimens where you can use burst-type workouts, which will  give you anaerobic challenges that can stimulate your body to higher levels of health, in shorter time.

By exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. Heart attacks don't happen because your heart lacks endurance. They happen during times of stress, when your heart needs more energy and pumping capacity, but doesn't have it.

And let’s not forget about nutrition when it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure and keeping heart disease at bay. Proper nutrition forms the necessary base upon which everything else is built.

For more information about maintaining your blood pressure and avoiding heart disease the natural way, please review the links below.

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