Heart: your main muscle

You can be in perfect physical shape, but are you doing everything right to protect your heart? Find out what exercises and diets can be too extreme for your heart muscle.

Author: Kelly Davis

Sports fans know that proper nutrition and exercise are the key to a long and trouble-free work of the heart muscle.

This question could be considered closed, considering that any physical activity is much more useful for the health of the cardiovascular system than a sedentary lifestyle. This is true for diets, which keep the weight within the norm. However, for some training programs and diets – especially for the most extreme – the arguments for and against do not seem so straightforward anymore.

In certain cases and for certain people, exercise and diet can increase the overall risk of heart disease and even the risk of sudden death.

Health and sporting achievements stand on the solid foundation of a balanced diet. However, some fashion trends may not be the best choice for your heart.

Macronutrients are above all (MPV)

Fans of diets, guided by the principle of MPV, can face difficulties if they do not pay proper attention to the quality of food. Strict consideration of macronutrients helps in achieving many goals, but if you forget how important it is to include in the diet a variety of products that provide you with useful nutrients, you undermine the foundation on which you could build a strong and healthy body.

"If your norm is 4 500 calories per day, you can easily add to the diet products that many will call harmful, such as chips, cakes and various snacks," says Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., a certified physical education specialist and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The danger of packaged food is that it often contains trans fats. Trans fats increase the level of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and reduce HDL (high-density lipoproteins), which should be avoided for those who aspire to normal cholesterol. Excess trans fat in the diet is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and generalized inflammatory reactions.

Not all fans of the principle of MPV add to the menu huge portions of packaged snacks and products with trans fats, but one should never forget that the quality of food matters. If you want your body to be healthy from the inside, you need to look beyond the amount of carbohydrates, fats and protein in the daily diet.

The next trend is diets with a predominance of nutrients, which the body can not produce in large quantities. High-fat and high-protein diets can become a source of problems for those who are not able to burn a large amount of fat.

"If your body is able to utilize the mountains of fat, then everything is in order," says Dr. Nelson. "But if your body is not suitable for such tasks, you can run into trouble. As is known, scientific works that studied the changes in blood circulation after fatty foods showed serious problems, especially in people with excess weight. " Apparently, an increased concentration of free fatty acids can suppress the synthesis of nitric oxide, and this increases the risk of hypertension. If you are thinking about switching to a diet with a predominance of fats, remember that not all food fats are the same, and our organisms assimilate them in different ways.

In general, active people and athletes can use diets high in fat and protein, for example, low-carbohydrate or ketogenic, with greater success than sedentary people. "In one classic study, physically active and sedentary people were given a McDonald's menu for breakfast consisting of McMuffin with egg and sausage and potato pancakes. After such a fatty diet, scientists evaluated the expansion of blood vessels and came to the conclusion that it decreases by almost 10% in a sedentary group, "says Dr. Nelson. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis. These discoveries confirm the concept that ordinary physical activity can reduce the negative impact of fatty foods on the health of the cardiovascular system.

The physical form of a person can determine the success of a particular diet. But keeping balance and getting all the nutrients in reasonable doses (including alcohol) was and remains the best option. Dr. Nelson sums up: "In moderate amounts, fats are not so terrible, but leaning on fatty foods for many years is not the best choice for the health of your heart."

Although members of the bodybuilding community look really healthy, extreme diets can turn into a source of problems. Dr. Spencer Nadolski, a bodybuilder, a triathlonist and a family doctor, the osteopath knows how a preparation for the competition can be a test for the body.

"Low-carb diets with a high content of saturated fats can adversely affect the health of the heart and blood vessels," he says. "Athletes who adhere to such diets often have cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in their blood – especially the fractions of non-HDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein B and LDL – the same as in people who are predisposed to atherosclerosis. It does not happen with all the fans of such diets, but everyone should know about the existing risk. "

"When men and women eat too tight diets – and get very few calories – it affects the interaction of the brain with various organs," explains Dr. Nadolski. – "Men lose secretion of testosterone and thyroid hormones. Women face a deficiency of progesterone and estrogen, which can lead to disruption of the menstrual cycle, demineralization of the bones and even problems with the thyroid gland. In the long term, this condition of the body negatively affects the heart. For this reason, I would recommend limiting the competition period to a certain time of the year. "

To maintain or restore normal hormonal balance, avoid extreme diets and keep an extremely low percentage of body fat over time. Try to schedule the competition so that you have plenty of time to recover, and you would have led a healthy lifestyle for most of the year. Constant medical supervision during the preparation for the competitions will also help to identify any red flags.

According to the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, in order to keep the heart healthy, you should limit 150 minutes of moderate intensity training or 75 minutes of high-intensity training per week. I think that many of you will exhaust this limit in just a couple of days! Of course, training is good for health, but those who train at the limit for a long time are at risk.

An analysis of the scientific papers published by the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) showed that hardy athletes who train with very high intensity for a long period are at greater risk of developing cardiopathology than their colleagues exercising with moderate loads. "Our data show that excessive training in any form can lead to heart disease," says Dr. Nelson. – "Competitors who require superhuman endurance, risk most. Not surprisingly, weightlifters and powerlifters who work only with submaximal scales, too, fall into the category of increased risk. "

As the saying goes, a good little by little. "Different exercises have different effects on the heart, and the training stress is also always different. Skewing towards some kind of stress pushes you toward an area of ​​increased risk, "explains Dr. Nelson.

Strength training 3-5 once a week will not increase the risk of cardiopathology for most people, it is also true for those who run less than 50 km per week. "However, if you work at the limit, raise a giant weight with a high frequency for dozens of years or run for years at ultramarathon distances, the risk will increase," says Dr. Nelson.

Scientists have yet to find out what kind of exercise is considered excessive in terms of cardiac risk. But, as in the case of diet, during training, you quickly forget about the sense of proportion. Keep in mind, training for wear for many years, you run the risk of experiencing cardiovascular diseases.

Representatives of sports that require stamina should plan their off-season so that they can absorb other types of load, including cross-training and strength training.

Even if you personify health and well-being, regular medical examinations will not interfere. They will be able to identify any early symptoms that warn of heart disease.

Dr. Nadolski recommends, from the age of twenty, to determine the lipid profile on an empty stomach at least once every five years. "I advise you to pass this test as early as possible if you have changed your lifestyle, diet, physical activity, or if the compositional composition of tissues has changed dramatically," he says. "I also add fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (A1c) to patients whose relatives have 2 type diabetes mellitus. Hemoglobin A1c gives an idea of ​​the average level of blood sugar within three months. "

After thirty years should continue to regularly take blood tests. As with most surveys, before going to the laboratory it is worth to find out in your insurance company which tests are covered by insurance, and for which you will have to pay extra from your own pocket.

Dr. Nadolski also recommends monitoring blood pressure and waist circumference, especially since both indicators can be evaluated without leaving home. Portable blood pressure monitors simplify the monitoring of blood pressure and help to detect arterial hypertension at the earliest stage.

If your systolic pressure (upper figure) is stably higher than 120, or the diastolic (lower figure) exceeds 80, you should make an appointment with a doctor for additional examination and evaluation of its results.

As for the waist circumference, it should be within 80 cm for women and 94 cm for men to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, in particular, 2 type diabetes, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular pathology.

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