CERG highlights from the 2012 World Congress of Cardiology

Dubai (April 2012). This year the United Arab Emirates organized the World Congress of Cardiology Scientific Sessions from 18-21 April.

The World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) is the official congress of the World Heart Federation and is held every two years.  The congress brought together thousands of cardiologists and other healthcare professionals from around the world, and represented an important forum for discussing all aspects of prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Bellow, you can check out what CERG researches chose as highlights in the exercise field from this year’s meeting, with excerpts from the WCC press release. The three selected topics are quite diverse, covering athlete’s heart in black male athletes, exercise to prevent hypertension, and exercise to help smokers quit and reduce their CVD risk.

Because these studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Enjoy! 🙂
– CERG Researchers

Athlete’s heart found to be more prevalent in black male athletes

A heart characteristic linked to sudden cardiac death is more common in athletes than non-athletes, and black male athletes are much more likely to have this characteristic than other athletes, a new study finds.

Left-ventricular hyper-trabeculation (LVHT) – a feature of certain cardiomyopathies (chronic disease of the heart muscle) – has been found to be more common in black, male athletes according to a new study recently presented at the WCC.

A study of 692 athletes, carried out in the UK from 2006–2011, found that LVHT was more prevalent in athletes compared with non-athletes (6.8% compared with 0.4%). However, none of the individuals with LVHT fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for any form of cardiomyopathy. Moreover, LVHT was found to be significantly more common in afro-Caribbean (black) athletes than in other athletes (13.2% versus 4%).

Regular athletic training results in physiological adaptations to heart structure and function. And while many functional changes have been identified, LVHT has not previously been recognized as a feature of “athlete’s heart.” Rather, LVHT is a known feature of cardiomyopathy, which remains the most common cause of exercise-related sudden cardiac death in athletes.

“The high prevalence of LVHT among athletes suggests that this may represent part of the spectrum of cardiac adaptations that are known to make up ‘athlete’s heart’,” said Dr. Navin Chandra, from St Georges University of London. “Given that LVHT is a feature of sudden cardiac death, its prevalence among athletes creates greater challenges for doctors trying to differentiate between athlete’s heart and a serious medical condition, particularly in black male athletes where the prevalence is much higher.”

Exercise reduces risk of death in hypertensive patients

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the major preventable risk factors for premature death from cardiovascular disease worldwide. High blood pressure contributes to around half of all cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the risk of developing CVD doubles for every 10-point increase in diastolic blood pressure.

Treating raised blood pressure has been associated with a 35–40% reduction in the risk of stroke and at least a 16% reduction in the risk of heart attack.

Interestingly, a prospective study conducted in 434,190 individuals over a period of 12 years in Taiwan was presented at the 2012 WCC. It showed that all-cause and CVD mortality risks were significantly higher among study participants that didn’t exercise, compared to active participants, at all blood pressure levels. Moreover, the excess mortality risks of physical inactivity – when converted into a “blood pressure equivalence of physical activity” measurement – revealed that physical inactivity led to an equivalent rise in risk of mortality as an increase in blood pressure of 40-50 mmHg.

“The risk of developing CVD has been proven to increase significantly as blood pressure increases; and reducing blood pressure to reduce CVD risk is an important treatment goal for all physicians,” said CP Wen, from the Institute of Population Health Science, National Health Research Institute, Taiwan. “This study is the first to quantify the impact of exercise on the risk profile of people with high blood pressure. Appreciating this relationship will hopefully help to motivate people with high blood pressure that are inactive to take exercise.”

Dr Wen comments, “To date, exercise and high blood pressure have been managed separately, with people mainly being concerned about their blood pressure readings. However, these results suggest that doctors should also discuss the importance of physical exercise as a means to manage the CVD and all-cause mortality risk.”

Exercise helps smokers quit

Smoking is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease, and directly responsible for one-tenth of all CVD worldwide. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack as people who have never smoked. Moreover, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for 600,000 deaths every year.

A person can substantially lower their CVD risk by stopping smoking. The risk of coronary heart disease is cut by half one year after quitting, and 15 years after quitting it is nearly the same as someone who never smoked. Similarly, after 5-15 years of not smoking, stroke risk is also reduced to that of a person who never smoked.

A report released at the World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai reveals that people who exercise are 55% more likely to quit smoking, and also 43% less likely to relapse.

A team of scientists at the National Health Research Institute and China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan studied the health and habits of 434,190 people in Taiwan from 1996 to 2008. The study also showed that, for those smokers who didn’t quit, exercising increased life expectancy by 3.7 years. Those that exercised and did manage to quit saw an increase in life expectancy of 5.6 years. Dr. Chi Pang Wen, one of the researchers, explains:

“Exercise can help smokers to quit, and quitting smoking has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing CVD, and that must be the goal of all smokers. If smokers can continue to exercise, not only can they increase the quit rate, but they can also reduce their mortality for all causes and for CVD in the long run.”

If you’re wondering how much exercise you need to improve your chances of quitting, the answer is 30 minutes per day. That sounds like a pretty good deal for 5.6 extra years of life.

So, the message is to quit and exercise – doing both is the best option.

Written by Gustavo da Silva and Jose Bianco Moreira, Post doctor and PhD candidate at CERG, respectively.


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