Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Morgan’s Top 4 Reasons Why Exercise Improves Heart Health

Virtually everyone knows that sufficient exercise burns calories, can help get rid of unwanted excess fat deposits (we’re looking at you love handles and cankles), and releases endorphins that are technically defined as endogenous opioid neuropeptides and peptide hormones, but generally grasped as your body saying “hey, this feels really good!”

However, what many people don’t know — or at least, don’t spend much time thinking about — is that in combination with a nutritious diet, a doctor-approved exercise regimen can significantly improve heart health; which does not just enhance one’s quality of life. Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, it may increase a person’s lifespan.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Morgan a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in heart transplants and left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), here are four reasons why exercise improves heart health.

1. Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure

Exercise enables the heart to deliver a higher volume of blood to exercising muscles with each beat. At the same time, stronger and fitter muscles do a better job of drawing oxygen from the circulating blood — which puts less strain on the heart and makes it more efficient. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, who graduated with his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1999, states that exercise is a very important component to living a heart-healthy lifestyle for patients with and without elevated blood pressure.

2. Exercise Helps Control Weight

Exercise can play an important role in helping to control weight and achieve and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) — which is important for optimal, efficient heart health and functionality. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan points out that excess weight increases the risk of abnormal heart function, and obese individuals have four times the risk of developing heart failure compared to individuals with an ideal body weight.

3. Exercise Can Lower Cholesterol

Exercises stimulates enzymes that play a role in driving low-density lipoproteins (LDL), more commonly known as bad cholesterol, from the blood and blood-vessel walls to the liver, where is it converted into bile or leaves the body through excretion. At the same time, exercise enlarges the size of protein particles that transmit cholesterol throughout the blood, which reduces the volume of small, dense particles that make their way into the blood vessels and lining of the heart. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan asserts that elevated levels of LDL cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. LDL leads to a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, which can lead to chest pain and heart attack.

4. Exercise Can Help Smokers Butt Out — For Good

Smoking is not just expensive and, for the most part these days, inconvenient — it is also extremely bad for heart health; and every other organ for that matter. The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage blood cells and increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, ultimately leading to ischemic heart disease. Exercise can help smokers deal with cravings and withdrawal symptoms, as well as boost energy levels. It can also be a potent psychological booster that helps people focus on their new and healthier life ahead, instead of dwell on what they are leaving behind.

The Bottom Line

While it is not a magic wand — diet, age, lifestyle habits, stress, genetics, and even geography all factor into the equation — a doctor-approved exercise regimen can be the best gift that people give their heart; and in the big picture, themselves and everyone who cares about them.

Dr. Jeffrey Morgan

Dr. Jeffrey Morgan is a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in heart transplants and left ventricular assist devices (LVAD).

Dr. Jeffrey Morgan

Written by

Professor of Surgery & Surgical Development of the Advanced Heart Failure Center of Excellence at Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Jeffrey Morgan

Dr. Jeffrey Morgan is a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in heart transplants and left ventricular assist devices (LVAD).

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