Friday, May 24, 2019

Walking isnʻt just for your heart any more. Also the liver, the brain, diabetes...

The link between exercise and heart health is will understood, but new data suggests other organs, notably the liver, also benefit, and dramatically.

This doesnʻt mean you need to run marathons or go to other physical extremes. Walking is sufficient to reduce risks pretty dramatically.

The Harvard Medical School makes the point clearly: "Walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress.

"And if cardiac protection and a lower death rate are not enough to get you moving, consider that walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction."

The article that quote comes from is a valuable lesson for the sedentary. 

The latest bit of data to support going out on regular hikes is a study that looked at 26 years of data on the exercise habits of 117,000 people. Thatʻs a big study.

The study notes that cirrhosis of the liver is increasing along with the nationʻs obesity crisis, but that regular exercise, like walking, can reverse the trend.

"Our findings show that both walking and strength training contribute to substantial reductions in risk of cirrhosis-related death, which is significant because we know very little about modifiable risk factors," said Dr. Tracey Simon, of Harvard Medical School and lead researcher on the study, which was  presented at a conference of Digestive DiseaseWeek

Their study found that those in the top fifth in terms of amount of walking reduced their likelihood of cirrhosis-related death by 73 percent. And those who added strength training cut their risk even more.

Simonʻs study was published in the May 2019 edition of the journal Gastroenterology.  Her co-authors were Edward Giovannucci, Kathleen E. Corey, Xuehong Zhang and Andrew T. Chan. The paper is entitled: Physical activity, including walking and strength training, are associated with reduced risk of cirrhosis-related mortality: Results fromtwo prospectice cohors of U.S. men and women.

They followed 68,000 women and 49,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who reported their walking, other aerobic activities and resistance exercise over a period from 1986 to 2012. And they looked at the ones who died during the period, and whose deaths were attributable to cirrhosis.

"Compared to adults in the lowest quintile of physical activity, those in the highest quintile had a 73% lower risk for cirrhosisrelated death," the report said.

The authors said thereʻs still need for more research into the best kind of exercise, amount of exercise and intensity of exercise. But it seems clear that getting out and moving it has significant benefits for long-term health.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

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