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Exercise Anti-Aging Tip Sheets Behavior Brain and Mental Performance

Physical Activity Reduces Brain Stress Activity To Lower Risk Of CVD

2 months, 1 week ago

3498  0
Posted on Apr 17, 2024, 3 p.m.

New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology led by Massachusetts General Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham Healthcare System indicates that physical activity lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, in part, by reducing stress-related signaling in the brain, finding that those with stress-related conditions such as depression experienced the most cardiovascular benefits from physical activity.

The researchers analyzed medical records and other information from 50,359 participants enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank who completed a physical activity survey, and a subset of 774 participants who underwent brain imaging, tests, and measurements of stress-related brain activity to assess the mechanisms underlying the psychological and cardiovascular disease (CVD) benefits of physical activity. 

The analysis revealed that over a median follow-up of ten years, 12.9% of the participants developed CVD, and those who met physical activity recommendations had a 23% lower risk of developing CVD compared to those who did not meet the recommendations. 

After accounting for a wide range of lifestyle variables and other risk factors, those with higher levels of physical activity were found to have lower levels of stress-related brain activity. Reductions in stress-associated brain activity were driven by gains in function in the prefrontal cortex which is involved in executive function and is known to restrain stress centers of the brain. 

The reductions in stress-related brain signaling account for physical activity’s cardiovascular benefit. Further analysis revealed that in a cohort of 50,359 participants the cardiovascular benefits of exercise were substantially greater among those who would be expected to have higher stress-related brain activity, such as those with depression.

"Physical activity was roughly twice as effective in lowering cardiovascular disease risk among those with depression. Effects on the brain's stress-related activity may explain this novel observation," said Ahmed Tawakol, MD, who is the senior author of the study, an investigator and cardiologist in the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Prospective studies are needed to identify potential mediators and to prove causality. In the meantime, clinicians could convey to patients that physical activity may have important brain effects, which may impart greater cardiovascular benefits among individuals with stress-related syndromes such as depression."

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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