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Exercise, Inflammation and Cardiovascular Health 2

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for the majority of deaths in the developed world (Murray, C. J. and Lopez, A. D 1997). Inflammation plays a major role in the atherosclerotic disease process (Pearson et al. 2003). All stages, ie. initiation, growth, and complication of the atherosclerotic plaque, might be considered to be an inflammatory response to injury (Libby P, Ridker PM 1999).

Exercise has been found to reduce the known risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases, such as inflammatory/hemostatic factors and blood pressure. Mora et al. (2007) found that in an epidemiological study of 27, 055 apparently healthy woman, those that reported regularly participating in physical activity had a substantially improved biomarkers (inflammatory/hemostatic biomarkers showed the largest change (32.6%), followed by blood pressure (27.1%)) demonstrating an inverse relationship between amount of exercise done and incidents of inflammation and cardiovascular disease (Mora et al. 2007).


Exercise, inflammation and cardiovascular health promote fitness without heart diseaseHigher levels of physical activity are associated with fewer incidents of cardiovascular disease. Although the precise mechanisms underlying this inverse association are unclear, differences in several cardiovascular risk factors may mediate this effect (Ross, 1999).

The reason for this is that following acute exercise, there is a transient increase in circulating levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, whereas chronic exercise reduces basal levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Exercise training also induces the expression of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mediators in the vascular wall that may directly inhibit the development of atherosclerosis(Wilund, 2007). The factors that contribute to atherosclerosis and the development of atherosclerotic plaque are commonly considered to be cigarette smoking, hypertension, atherogenic lipoproteins, and hyperglycemia (Sullivan, 1996). Wilund(2007) also found that through investigation on animal models that exercise is atheroprotective, helping to limit the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.


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Plutzky J. Inflammatory pathways in atherosclerosis and acute coronary syndromes. Am J Cardiol. 2001
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Sullivan, J. M. Practical aspects of preventing and managing
atherosclerotic disease in post-menopausal women
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Wilund, K.R.Is the anti-inflammatory effect of regular exercise responsible for reduced cardiovascular disease? Clinical Science. 2007; 112:543–555
Murray, C. J. and Lopez, A. D. Global mortality, disability, and the contribution of risk factors: Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet 1997; 347:1436–1442