You’ve heard it often. Maybe you’re even getting tired of being lectured about it. But it bears repeating, so here it is one more time: Exercise promotes cardiovascular health which, in turn, can prevent all kinds of diseases. Now that you’ve endured the same advice for the umpteenth time, here is something else you might not have known: Having excellent cardiovascular health can also help you to fight disease. Here’s how.
Cancer Treatments can Harm a Weak Heart
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are saving the lives of cancer patients. At least it is those patients whose heart and lungs can withstand treatments. “Almost every chemotherapy drug has some effect on the cardiovascular system, and most are not good,” says Dr. Mandeep R. Mehra, a professor at Harvard Medical School in a recent article in Harvard Heart Health. “But with the new anticancer agents, an increasing amount of cardiac toxicity is being observed.”
A Double-Edged Sword
It’s called irony. The drugs that can cure you of cancer can also wreck your heart. Acute leukemia is one of those diseases that often requires high doses of chemo to put it into complete remission. Without the help of excellent cardiovascular health, many of the most effective drugs cannot be administered. Dr. Christopher Ehmann, a hematologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, insists on a healthy cardiovascular system before giving the maximum doses of chemo. “A healthy heart and lungs are your best friends going into treatment. And they give your doctor more options.”
Can Exercise Mend a Broken Heart?
No, not that kind of broken heart. We’re talking about the kind that needs fixing after a heart attack. Can you jump on a bike, hop on a treadmill, or hit the road running with the intent of fighting another coronary? The answer is yes…but not too soon. Cardiovascular health is much more beneficial in combating disease when you have attained it before the disease hits. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take up some new physical activity after you’ve had an attack. With guidance from your doctor and a smart training plan that introduces cycling or running very gradually, you can achieve cardiovascular health and fend off the effects of heart disease.
Menopause and Heart Health
While menopause is neither a disease nor does it cause cardiovascular disease, risk factors in women increase around the same time as menopause. Estrogen levels decline with menopause, and this is the hormone that is responsible for increasing blood flow by helping to keep blood vessels flexible— just like exercise. Once again, good cardiovascular health, attained through regular exercise, is shown to be the best defense for entering menopause, a time that is traditionally risky for middle-aged women.
You’ve probably heard that no one can control the future. That’s difficult to dispute, but anyone can prepare for it. Facing future adversity with superb cardiovascular health returns some of the lost control. Give yourself a healthy heart and lungs by setting aside time each day to strengthen them with exercise. When the unforeseeable shows up, you’ll be prepared.