The simple activity shown to reduce risk of heart problems – ‘less than 5 minutes’ needed

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In the UK, there’s a heart attack roughly every five minutes. This scary figure is a testament to how prevalent heart disease is – the main cause of heart attacks. Roughly 64,000 die from the illness each year. Yet, more and more research is showing that simple changes in your life can help to offset heart problems.

One of these changes could be to introduce resistance exercises to your routine, suggests one study.

A group of researchers found that using free weights and weight training machines just a few times a week might be hugely beneficial to your heart health.

Doing even a little bit of the activity turned out to lower the risk of “coronary heart disease events”, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Duck-Chul Lee, one of the authors of the study and an associate professor at Iowa State University, said: “People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective.

Lee also suggested that the type of exercises you do was not massively important. He said: “Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key.

“My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell.”

The conclusion comes after the researchers looked at the health of nearly 13,000 adults over the course of a decade.

During the study, they got participants to record the level of resistance training they were doing to spot any trends.

They found that two days a week was associated with the lowest risk of CVD events but there were no improvements beyond four days a week.

The academics speculated that the reason why the risk went down could be linked to the anti-stress that working out provides – although more research is needed.

Stress, over time, can increase your blood pressure – which is a massive risk of heart disease.

The researchers also pointed out why doing the activity more than four times a week might not do anything.

They cited past studies showing that high levels of resistance training can worsen heart health.

One of these studies suggests that high-intensity workouts can increase the stiffening of the arteries. Stiff artery walls can mean an increase of blood pressure, which can damage the heart.

Another study back in 2015 also found that resistance training could reduce the blood pressure of people with metabolic syndrome – a combination of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Other research has suggested that some supervised weight training might even help with recovery after a heart attack.

How else can you help prevent heart disease?

A low-fat, high-fibre diet and limiting your salt, are proven to reduce your risk, according to the NHS.

Foods containing saturated fat should be also avoided, explains the NHS, because this bumps up the levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood.

According to the NHS, the following foods should be avoided because they increase the levels of cholesterol in your blood:

  • Meat pies
  • Sausages and fatty meat
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Hard cheese
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Food containing palm oil or coconut

The NHS adds: “You should also try to avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this can increase your chances of developing diabetes, which is proven to significantly increase your chances of developing CHD.”

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