May 29, 2024

Physical Activity Reduces Cardiovascular Disease Risk by Alleviating Stress-related Brain Activity

A recent study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital has revealed that engaging in physical activity can significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing stress-related signaling in the brain. The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, highlight the positive impact of exercise on both psychological and cardiovascular health.

Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist and lead investigator at the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his team analyzed data from 50,359 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank. Participants who completed a physical activity survey and underwent brain imaging tests showed a correlation between higher levels of physical activity and lower stress-related brain activity.

The study found that individuals who met recommended levels of physical activity had a 23% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not meet the guidelines. Furthermore, participants with higher physical activity levels exhibited reduced stress-related brain activity, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in executive function and stress regulation.

The researchers also observed that the cardiovascular benefits of exercise were more pronounced in participants with pre-existing stress-related conditions such as depression. Physical activity was shown to be twice as effective in lowering cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with depression, suggesting that reductions in stress-related brain signaling may play a crucial role in this relationship.

While further studies are needed to establish causality and identify potential mediators, the study underscores the importance of physical activity in promoting both brain and heart health. Dr. Tawakol emphasized the significance of these findings for clinicians, highlighting the potential for physical activity to have significant brain effects that translate into greater cardiovascular benefits for individuals with stress-related syndromes.

Overall, the research provides valuable insights into the mechanisms through which physical activity contributes to reducing cardiovascular disease risk by alleviating stress-related brain activity. Promoting regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle may offer significant protective effects against cardiovascular disease, particularly for individuals experiencing stress-related conditions.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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