A Hip Replacement Is Good for Your Heart

Surgery eases joint pain, paves way for better exercise

Pain may push you to seek knee or hip replacement surgery, but a recent study shows that this surgery can do much more than ease painful joints. It very likely will boost your heart health and help you live longer.

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Adults may accept achy muscles and joints as an inevitable part of aging, but when osteoarthritis causes so much pain that you give up on exercise, more than your lifestyle is at risk. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for heart disease and lowers your life expectancy.

Hip and knee replacement surgery is safe and effective for relieving joint pain and restoring mobility. The study finds that such surgery also reduces the risk of heart disease for patients suffering from osteoarthritis.

Study findings are promising for heart health

Published online in BMJ (British Medical Journal), the study details how orthopedic surgery lessens the likelihood that you will ever need cardiovascular surgery.

Scientists in Canada started recruiting subjects in 1996 and enrolled 2,200 people, age 55 and older, who all had osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. The researchers followed the participants’ progress until 2011 when they analyzed the data collected.

Researchers grouped participants into 153 like or matched pairs. In those matched pairs, individuals who underwent total joint arthroplasty (replacement surgery) of the knee or hip were less likely to experience a cardiovascular event.

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Analysis of all the data revealed that hip or knee replacement had a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.

Results make sense

Cardiac surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD, did not participate in the study, but he reviewed it and says that, intuitively, the results make sense. “The most likely explanation for the cardioprotective effect is exercise,” he says.

“Osteoarthritis can cause debilitating pain and stiffness that makes movement difficult,” Dr. Gillinov says. “We have known for many years that exercise has a definite and strong cardioprotective effect. So it makes sense that those patients who had knee or hip replacements, and who thereby regained mobility, likely engaged in more exercise, and thus reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Physical activity is the key

Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain. A mere 10 extra pounds gained can increase your blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Weight gain and obesity also can lead to adult-onset diabetes.

High blood pressure and diabetes are both leading risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

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Exercise or physical activity helps boost your mood and improves self-esteem. When you stop moving because of pain or stiffness caused by osteoarthritis, your mental health can suffer along with your physical health.

And if you don’t feel good about yourself, bad eating habits can develop, which further increase your risk for heart disease.

Keeping the body moving is good for the heart, even if it takes hip or knee replacement to do it, says Dr. Gillinov. He sums up the concept neatly, “Exercise is our best medicine when it comes to prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

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