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Exercise and heart health


  I am 35 years old and generally in good health, with the exception of being
  about 20 lbs overweight and having a high cholesterol reading (around 250).
  I would like to begin a comprehensive fitness program which includes proper
  diet, aerobic exercise, and moderate weightlifting.  I have two questions:
      1.)  I know that aerobic exercise is excellent for the heart, but is it
  useful only as a preventive measure against future heart disease, or can it
  also actually reverse some of the damage already done to arteries caused
  by years of high-fat eating?
      2.)  From most of the research I can find, it seems that many health
  authorities recommend weight training as an integral part of overall
  fitness (which would also include aerobic exercise, stretching, and proper
  diet).  However, a cardiologist I saw several years ago said he thinks that
  weightlifting is not only unnecessary, but can also be dangerous to the
  health of your heart, by increasing blood pressure and by potentially
  enlarging the heart.  What exactly does he mean by this?  I have been
  having a hard time finding any corroborating evidence to his opinion.  I
  can understand that lifting excessive amounts of weight (such as done by
  professional bodybuilders) could cause a significant increase in blood
  pressure, and also perhaps in the size of the heart.  But all I'm
  interested in doing is toning up and adding a little bit of muscle to
  help in my effort to burn fat.  What considerations should I take into
  account as I plan a weightlifting routine?
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Dear Peter,
Q: I know that aerobic exercise is excellent for the heart, but is it
useful only as a preventive measure against future heart disease, or can it
also actually reverse some of the damage already done to arteries caused
by years of high-fat eating?
A: The evidence is not conclusive but it is likely that there is some regression of heart disease.  This is probably dose dependent and the changes that most people make are not enough to cause regression.

Q:  From most of the research I can find, it seems that many health
authorities recommend weight training as an integral part of overall
fitness (which would also include aerobic exercise, stretching, and proper
diet). However, a cardiologist I saw several years ago said he thinks that
weightlifting is not only unnecessary, but can also be dangerous to the
health of your heart, by increasing blood pressure and by potentially
enlarging the heart. What exactly does he mean by this?
A: It is true what your cardiologist has said.  This is the difference between static exercise (such as weight lifting) and aerobic exercise (such as swimming). Some gentle weight training is probably OK but I wouldn't overdo it.
I hope you find this information useful.  Information provided in the heart forum is for general purposes only.  Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies.  Please feel free to write back with additional questions.
If you would like to make an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE or inquire online by using the Heart Center website at www.ccf.org/heartcenter.  The Heart Center website contains a directory of the cardiology staff that can be used to select the physician best suited to address your cardiac problem.





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