If you’re afraid of one day developing heart failure, you’d better start exercising … NOW — because regular exercise may be your greatest weapon against future chronic heart failure.
Often after a heart attack, the heart’s pumping ability is permanently weakened: heart failure – meaning, the cardiac muscle fails to pump optimal amounts of blood.
The patient is then left with this insufficient pumping for the rest of his or her life.
Enter Exercise: Preventive of Heart Failure
Researchers have discovered that exercise stimulates the heart to generate new cells. The heart is a muscle, so these new cells would be the muscle cells of the heart.
The researchers found that the hearts of mice can make new cells under normal conditions but also following a heart attack.
And before you shake your head and think, “Well this was shown only in mice,” you must realize that many phenomena that have been shown in humans were once only shown in mice when experimentation was being done only on mice (or rats).
The study appears in Nature Communications (April 25, 2018) and comes from the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology; Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School; and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
The Human Heart failure
Our heart doesn’t quite shine in the area of making new cells—even in young adults, whose hearts regenerate about one percent each year. In middle age adults this renewal process is even less.
Losing cardiac muscle cells is linked to heart failure. The researchers believe that if we can drive up the renewal process, heart failure can be prevented.
“We wanted to know whether there is a natural way to enhance the regenerative capacity of heart muscle cells,” notes Ana Vujic, PhD, of HSCRB, in the paper. “So we decided to test the one intervention we already know to be safe and inexpensive: exercise.”
Mice on a Treadmillfailure
Jogging on a treadmill is a simple form of exercise when compared to other forms such as dance-like moves, yoga and boot camps.
One group of healthy mice had voluntary access to a tiny treadmill and, on their own, ran about five kilometers a day.
The other healthy group did not have access to a treadmill and hence, led a sedentary existence.
Using a special technique involving adding a chemical that would show on newly formed DNA amid dividing cells, the researchers were able to track cardiac cell regeneration.
The jogging mice made more than four and a half times the number of new cardiac cells than did the sedentary mice.
Inducing Heart Attack in Mice failure
The researchers induced a heart attack in the treadmill mice, after which they still voluntarily trotted five kilometers a day.
However, despite the heart attack, these mice still showed renewal of cell growth.
Exercise, even after a heart attack, results in the regeneration of cardiac muscle cells.
By exercising every day, we can make our hearts younger. But you already knew that, right?
More research is planned, including discovering the precise pathways through which this regenerative process operates.
“If we can turn on these pathways at just the right time, in the right people, then we can improve recovery after a heart attack,” explains Richard Lee, MD, Harvard Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, in the paper.