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  • New study reveals that people with stable angina who exercise regularly at a high intensity increase their risk for heart failure

Couch Potatoes Rejoice? Not So Much…

We’ve all been taught that exercise is good for us, which for the most part it is, however there is a small portion of the population who may be exercising too much, to the point where it may actually kill them.

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Chances are you’ve heard stories about people who eat super clean, run 20k a day and then randomly one day they die. For the most part this is caused by cardiac hypertrophy which is what happens when you exercise so much that your heart muscles are enlarged causing obstruction of your ventricles.

The good news is that most people don’t have to worry about this because it currently only happens to about 100 people a year in the US and the large majority of these people are extreme athletes. However, a new study out of Germany has revealed that exercisers are at risk for more than just cardiac hypertrophy.

The results, which were published in the journal ‘Heart,’ found that people with existing heart conditions who ‘overdose’ on intensive exercise may actually increase their risk of heart attack or stroke.

Researchers looked at 1000 people who had been diagnosed with stable coronary heart disease, also known as stable angina. Stable angina is chest pain or discomfort that usually occurs with activity or stress due to poor blood flow through the blood vessels in the heart. Your heart muscle is working all the time, so it needs a constant supply of oxygen. This oxygen is provided by the coronary arteries, which carry blood. When the heart muscle has to work harder, it needs more oxygen. Symptoms of angina occur when the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked by the hardening of the arteries or by a blood clot.


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The study found that people with stable angina and who complete daily strenuous exercise are more than twice as likely to die of heart attack or stroke compared to people who exercise moderately. By contrast, people who didn’t exercise at all were 4x as likely to die of heart attack or stroke. Current recommendations suggest people with stable heart disease should be exercising for 1 hour 5x/week.

The results showcased a reversed j-shaped association between exercise and heart disease, stating that no exercise at all was the worst, moderate exercise was ideal, and too much exercise was worse than moderate but better than no exercise at all.

It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that exercise can be ‘bad’ for you but another study found similar results. Another study in the journal Heart found that endurance training in particular sends the body into an acute inflammatory state that over time can damage the heart.

That being said, none of this should deter you from exercising, unless perhaps you are competing in marathons every week. Not exercising at all still takes the cake for having the most detrimental effect on our heart, but we should also be considering the duration and intensity of our workouts.



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