A new study underlines the benefits of building muscle strength for your heart, which may also lead to better outcomes after a heart attack.
A higher level of leg muscle strength appears to be "significantly related" to a lower chance of developing heart failure after a heart attack, according to new research that was presented this month in Prague at the Heart Failure 2023 scientific meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, CNN reported.
According to Kensuke Ueno and Dr Kentaro Kamiya, researchers in the Department of Rehabilitation at Kitasato University School of Allied Health Sciences in Japan and authors of the new study, regular exercise and muscle strength are important for cardiovascular health, especially in older age, because ageing can lead to decreased muscle mass, which can affect cardiovascular health.
According to Kamiya, the heart may undergo a process known as myocardial remodelling after a heart attack, which may cause enlargement of the heart.
Yet, new research indicates that cardiac rehabilitation based on exercise can change the path of such remodelling in a way that enhances heart function.
“Cardiac remodelling is the main cause of the onset of heart failure after myocardial infarction,” Kamiya said.
“Exercise could help to attenuate cardiac remodelling," he said.
He also said that skeletal muscle releases myokines to prevent atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and age-related diseases.
"Maintaining skeletal muscle itself could be associated with a reduced risk of developing heart failure via this myokine, but the detailed mechanism is unclear," he added.
The researchers analysed the strength of the quadricep muscles — in the fronts of the thighs — of 932 people ages 57 to 74 who had been hospitalised due to heart attacks between 2007 and 2020, the report explained.
They found that low quadriceps strength increased the incidence rate of subsequent heart failure, while high quadriceps strength decreased it.
Person-years measure the number of people in a study multiplied by years.
In a press release, Ueno said that quadriceps strength can help identify patients at risk of heart failure.
“The findings need to be replicated in other studies, but they do suggest that strength training involving the quadriceps muscles should be recommended for patients who have experienced a heart attack to prevent heart failure,” he explained.
Furthermore, the new study suggests that muscle strength may play a role in managing heart disease, but more needs to be learned about why some people are more affected.
The American Heart Association recommends taking medications, attending follow-up appointments, participating in cardiac rehabilitation, and managing risk factors to prevent further heart problems.
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