Taking care of your heart this National Heart Month

Valentine’s Day is not the only day to celebrate hearts this month with National Heart Month falling in February to raise awareness of the ever growing importance of a healthy (and loved) heart.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to the umbrella term describing all heart and circulatory diseases, such as coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the world. Other diseases include myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation and congenital heart disease. Around 2,300 people in the USA, and 420 people in the UK, die each day from CVD, accounting for over 17 million deaths worldwide each year. This special collection of articles has been curated in observance of National Heart Month to raise awareness of the ever growing importance of CVD prevalence. The collection features research and review articles from several Hindawi Journals that investigate the ways in which factors such as exercise and diet may impact the development and progression of CVD.

A key message surrounding heart month is the importance of prevention to manage the risk of CVD development. Click To Tweet

A key message surrounding heart month is the importance of prevention to manage the risk of CVD development. With a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and obesity being some of the biggest risk factors for developing CVD, the importance of exercise is heightened, and has prompted the campaign #MoveWithHeart, encouraging people to pledge to be more physically active.

The first review in the collection, ‘Exercise and the Cardiovascular System’, discusses the many beneficial cardiac effects of exercise such as delaying reactive oxygen species (ROS) – mediated damage, inducing angiogenesis and exerting anti-inflammatory effects in cardiac and vascular tissues.

Next in the collection is a research article on ‘Aerobic Training Intensity for Improved Endothelial Function in Heart Failure Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ which investigates how aerobic exercise training improves endothelial function in patients with heart failure.

Looking further at the mechanisms of how exercise affects the cardiovascular system is a Special Issue published in BioMed Research International on ‘Effects of Physical Exercise on Cardiovascular Diseases: Biochemical, Cellular, and Organ Effects’. The issue features articles looking at the effects of exercise on platelet function, and how this may play a role in CVD development, research into how exercise may impact endothelial function in subjects with early metabolic syndrome, the beneficial effects of exercise in patients with chronic heart failure and how light intensity activity may impact metabolic profile and CVD risks factors.

Alongside the importance of physical exercise to improve cardiovascular health, is the importance of a healthy balanced diet. A large campaign hosted this February by the British Heart Foundation, called DeChox, is challenging people to give up chocolate for the entire month for your health, for the challenge and for the cause of donating and raising awareness for life changing research.

Providing evidence in support of this campaign to give up chocolate is a review on  ‘Dietary Pattern and Macronutrients Profile on the Variation of Inflammatory Biomarkers: Scientific Update’ which looks at how healthy dietary patterns, consisting of low sugar intake, can decrease the risk of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCD), such as cardiovascular disease, through positively influencing the modulation of low-grade inflammation. It is understood that low-grade inflammation is related to the development of NCD, and that dietary patterns which include low consumption of sugar, processed foods and saturated fats may help in improving low-grade inflammation, and consequently reducing the risk of NCD development.

For those with a sweet tooth, it is comforting to know that daily consumption of dark chocolate shows beneficial cardiovascular effects, as investigated in a clinical study on ‘Central Arterial Hemodynamic Effects of Dark Chocolate Ingestion in Young Healthy People: A Randomized and Controlled Trial’.

We round out this collection of articles with a review article that explores the potential protective effects of nutrition and diet on CVD. ‘Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease’ discusses the potential health-related benefits of dietary patterns and foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and soy protein on preventing CVD.

As one of the leading causes of death around the world, the importance of raising awareness for the prevention of CVD is paramount. Making lifestyle adjustments such as regular exercise and a well moderated diet remain some of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of developing CVD. Whilst National Heart Month is observed for only a few weeks, the need for controlling this global problem through life-changing research remains a continuous priority.

Abada Begum is a Publishing Editor at Hindawi. This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.