How Making Your Heart Work Harder Makes it Stronger
It may sound counterintuitive, but regularly making your heart work harder can actually lower your blood pressure and ease your heart’s burden. Find out how it works.
Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want something to last longer, you should go easy on it. And most of the time, that’s sage advice. But not when it comes to your body’s hardest-working organ: your heart.
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Each day your heart beats, on average, 100,000 times, pumping the blood through a vast system of blood vessels that is more than 60,000 miles long.
But making your heart work even harder — through moderate- to high-intensity physical activity on a consistent basis — can help lower your blood pressure and make your heart stronger.
During moderate- to high-intensity exercise, your muscles and tissues demand more nutrients and oxygen, which means that your heart must work harder and pump faster to meet those needs, says preventive cardiologist Haitham Ahmed, MD.
Your heart is a muscle. Just like your bicep, the more you work your heart, the bigger and stronger it gets.
Over time, your heart works more efficiently and can push out a greater volume of blood with every beat..
In addition, exercise also improves blood flow to the heart. It does this by improving the ability of the coronary blood vessels, which are the arteries that supply blood to the heart, to dilate.
Exercise also helps your other blood vessels’ ability to dilate, which, over time, lowers blood pressure.
“In general, the lower your blood pressure is, the better off you are,” Dr. Ahmed says. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease.
Consistent moderate physical activity has other benefits:
“As a secondary benefit, consistent exercise can help you lose weight, which means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard since there is less of you to pump blood to,” Dr. Ahmed says.
Dr. Ahmed also has these tips to help keep your blood pressure in check: