An international research team at UBC, Harvard University and Cardiff Metropolitan University has revealed that the human heart has adapted to support endurance physical activity. This research examines how the human heart has evolved and how it adapts in response to various physical challenges and will bring new ammunition to international efforts to reduce hypertensive heart disease – one of the most common causes of illness and death in the developed world.
A significant study analyzed 160 people, 43 chimpanzees and five gorillas to gain an understanding of how the heart responds to various types of physical activity. In collaboration with Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University and Aaron Baggish, a professor at UBC, Robert Shave and his colleagues compared the structure and function of the left ventricle in chimpanzees and various people, including some who were sedentary but very active, highly active Indigenous farmers, resilient football midfielders and long-distance runners.
A wide range of participants were specifically recruited to examine cardiac function in an evolutionary context. From athletic stadiums to wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, the team measured a diverse array of cardiac characteristics and responses to determine how common patterns of physical activity or lack of activity affect cardiac structure and function, explains Shave.
"While monkeys have shown adaptations to support the pressure challenge associated with activities such as climbing and fighting, humans have shown more endurance-related adaptations," says Shave, director of UBCO's School of Health and Exercise
Keeping them examined is a well-known idea that the heart rearranges itself in response to a variety of physiological challenges, he notes
"Moderate intensity endurance activities, such as walking and running, encourage the left ventricle's chamber to become larger, longer and more elastic – making it able to withstand large amounts of blood," he says. "But pressure challenges such as chronic weight lifting or high blood pressure encourage thickening and stiffening of the left ventricular wall."
Among people, the research team has shown that there is a shift between these two types of adaptations. This compromise means that people who have adapted to pressure cannot cope with volume and vice versa. Basically, the endurance runner's heart does not agree with the pressure, and the weightlifter's heart will not respond well to the volume increase.
This new research provides evidence that the human heart has evolved for the purpose of enduring moderate intensity activities, but that it adapts to different patterns of physical (in) activity.
"As a result, today's epidemic of physical inactivity combined with a highly processed, sodium diet contributes to thicker and firmer hearts, compromising the heart's ability to cope with enduring physical activity, and what is important is that this can begin to occur before increasing blood pressure rest," explains Shave.
This often accompanies an attack of high blood pressure and can eventually lead to hypertensive heart disease.
“We hope our research will inform those at highest risk for developing hypertensive heart disease,” says Shave. "And to ensure that moderately intense endurance activities are widely encouraged to ultimately prevent premature death."
This research was published in a journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine.
Protein produced during long workouts can alert to a heart problem
Robert E. Shave el al., "Choosing endurance ability and the shift between pressure and volume in the evolution of the human heart" PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1906902116
Embracing Evolution in the Heart (2019, September 16)
retrieved September 16, 2019
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