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Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Cardiovascular Disease – It Affects ALL Ages
by Alyssa Abruzzini 

Many people are starting to assess their risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), but are unaware how to alter lifestyle to avoid onset of the disorder. Attention to cardiovascular risk factors does not usually happen at a young age, since age itself is a risk factor. Despite this, there are many younger adults and adolescents with strong risk factors who need to become aware of their present danger for CVD.

Although there is less research regarding younger individuals, prevention is a crucial step in the right direction for people of all ages with high risk for cardiovascular disease. The key is starting prevention at an early age. Obesity, heredity, and blood pressure are just some of the risk factors for developing CVD. Children may not be able to control their family history, but things such as obesity; high blood pressure; elevated levels in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides and BMI; and cigarette smoking all contribute to increased risk. These are factors that are controllable!

There are several ways in which a doctor, therapist or exercise professional can assist in reducing the controllable risks factors which are preventable or can be stabilized. This is even easier while still in childhood. An important prevention factor is finding a fun exercise format; enjoyment helps with long-term participation in physical activity. Aquatic exercise is an excellent option. With proper formatting, aquatic exercise can assist all ages, including children and young adults, in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and other related complications.

Research has been conducted to test the actual link between fitness and cardiovascular risk. There have been many promising outcomes. It has been shown that if an individual has low fitness levels as an adolescent, they are more likely to develop a cardiovascular issue later in life. (Carnethon, 2003) It has also been shown that if an individual works to improve fitness, his/her potential risk is reduced. This study observed cardiovascular disease and other related issues, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If one eliminates other risk factors, overall risk for cardiovascular disease is reduced. Other studies have pointed out that prevention early in life should be focused on multiple risk factors rather than just one specific risk factor to prevent cardiovascular disease. If a patient has multiple risk factors, they are more likely to have cardiovascular disease earlier in life and have a harder time with disease management. (Berenson, 1998)

Physical activity has been shown to lower cardiovascular risks and risks for other diseases, such as obesity and high blood pressure. Decreases are apparent in BMI, body fat percentage, total cholesterol, and blood pressure, along with increases in fat-free mass and aerobic capacity. These results were seen just with 60-minute activity sessions three times a week. (Meredith-Jones, 2011) If we combine the benefits of regular physical activity with the benefits of aquatic programming, benefits can be further increased and reduce CVD risk early in life.

Those at risk for cardiovascular disease often have other risk factors, which may make land exercise more difficult. Aquatic exercise is an ideal option, especially for overweight and obese individuals, thanks to decreased joint loading and increased blood flow. If an individuals has high blood pressure, this can often be controlled with exercise. The cooling and comfort found in the aquatic setting allows – and encourages – training with more intensity. Aerobic training is important, since improving endurance will reduce many related risk factors by increasing vital capacity and improving overall stamina. Aquatic exercises can offset many exercise-related issues, resulting in the ability to increase activity and improve health.

Cardiovascular disease is no longer just a concern for adults. There are many conditions that children are acquiring that put them at risk. It has been proven that physical activity is beneficial to help lower risk, but some health conditions may limit how much activity can be performed on land. Aquatic exercise opens another door to exercise that is both fun and functional in offsetting health risks, thus reducing the change of developing of cardiovascular

Berenson,Gerald S.; Srinivasan, Sathanur R.; Bao, Weihang; Newman, William P.; Tracy, Richard E.; Wattigney, Wendy A. Association between Multiple Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Atherosclerosis in Children and Young Adults. N.Engl.J.Med., 1998, 338, 23, 1650-1656, Massachusetts Medical Society

Carnethon MR, SS Gidding, R Nehgme, S Sidney, DR Jacobs Jr., K Liu. Original Contribution Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Young Adulthood and the Development of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. JAMA. 2003;290(23):3092-3100.doi:10.1001/jama.290.23.3092

Kavey REW, SR Daniels, RM Lauer, DL Atkins, LL Hayman, K Taubert. AHA Scientific Statement: American Heart Association Guidelines for Primary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Beginning in Childhood . Circulation. 2003;107:1562-1566, doi:10.1161/01.CIR.0000061521.15730.6E

Kim Meredith-Jones, Debra Waters, Michael Legge, Lynnette Jones, Upright water-based exercise to improve cardiovascular and metabolic health: A qualitative review, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 19, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 93-103, ISSN 0965-2299, 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.02.002. ( Keywords: Aquatic exercise; Physical fitness; Cardiovascular disease; Metabolic disease

Alyssa Abruzzini is a junior in the exercise physiology undergraduate program at West Virginia University. Originally from Connecticut, Alyssa has worked in physical therapy facilities and has been a dancer for 15 years, which sparked her interest in the field. She hopes to work in physical therapy and integrate aquatics.
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