Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health: A Report by the European Heart Network

A recent report on physical activity and heart health underscores the pivotal role of being active in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases. The report, released by the European Heart Network (EHN), emphasizes that engaging in physical activity can be the determining factor in whether individuals recover from cardiovascular diseases and resume a normal, active life or continue life as patients.

The European Heart Network, a coalition dedicated to combating heart disease and stroke, launched the report as part of its commitment to supporting patients, with the Irish Heart Foundation among its members.

The report stresses that initiating physical activity is beneficial at any stage, asserting, “It is never too late to start with physical activity, and any exercise is better than none – though more is better.”

Key findings from the report highlight that physical inactivity is linked to around 330,000 cardiovascular deaths in Europe, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease by over 20%. Despite these risks, an estimated 25% of women and 22% of men in Europe remain physically inactive.

The EHN report advocates for a more widespread implementation of policy measures to promote physical activity at the population level, aiming to prevent cardiovascular disease. It emphasizes the need for a shift toward active lifestyles and encourages policy leaders to prioritize physical activity, particularly through systematic exercise training, as effective means of cardiovascular disease prevention and promotion of overall good health.

Walking is identified as the primary mode of preventive and health-enhancing physical activity, referred to as the ‘best buy in public health.’ Cycling is also recommended as an integrated daily activity.

For individuals living with cardiovascular conditions, the report emphasizes the importance of physical activity in secondary prevention, reducing the impact or severity of the disease. It calls for flexible, individualized, and ‘menu-based’ programmes as part of cardiovascular rehabilitation, stressing the under-utilisation of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation.

The report concludes that regular physical activity plays a critical role in both preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. It urges policymakers to prioritise and integrate physical activity into the comprehensive approach to cardiovascular health.

In response to the report, Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information, and Training at the Irish Heart Foundation, emphasises the need for policies that facilitate an active environment. She states, “It is not enough to tell people to be more active. We need policies to create an environment where being active is easy, for example, segregated cycle ways.”

In addition, active-passive trainers emerge as an excellent choice for individuals recovering from strokes or other major cardiovascular conditions, particularly when walking or cycling may pose challenges. These specialised exercise devices offer a controlled and adaptable approach to physical activity, allowing individuals with limited mobility to engage in rehabilitation.

Active-passive trainers, such as the Tigo 558, provide a supportive environment, enabling users to gradually build strength and mobility without placing excessive strain on affected areas. This targeted approach is especially crucial during the recovery phase, as it allows for tailored exercise programmes that accommodate the specific needs and abilities of individuals, fostering a safe and effective path toward regaining physical well-being after a major cardiovascular event.

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