Researchers find important differences in exercised hearts

This research may lead to better treatment for heart disease.

New Australian research has looked at how exercise protects against cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Australia. It kills one Australian every 12 minutes. Investigating what happens to the lipids and blood plasma in the heart during exercise compared to in a diseased heart may provide a way to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Researchers believe this study could lead to new predictors and treatments to prevent and treat heart disease.

The study, from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, compared the hearts of mice that had exercised with mice that had failing hearts. In particular, the researchers were concerned with the lipids in the heart. Lipids are fatty acids that can be used by the heart for energy. However, they can also be dangerous if they interfere with proper heart function.

The researchers found a number of new lipids with unknown roles in the heart. They believe these may provide new biomarkers for diagnosis or even drug targets for future medication. The researchers conclude their study by saying:

“In summary, we consider the extensive searchable lipid datasets presented here to represent a valuable resource for the research community for the identification of therapeutic targets as well as the potential to identify biomarkers that may distinguish the exercise trained heart from the failing heart.”

Interestingly, the heart responds to exercise and disease in similar ways. In both cases, the heart will enlarge, a process called cardiac hypertrophy. When this happens due to exercise, it’s considered a beneficial response in order to cope with the increased load on the heart.

However, when the heart increases in size and mass due to disease, such as high blood pressure, this is dangerous and can progress to heart failure.

“There has been substantial interest in understanding the mechanisms that underpin the differences between exercise-induced physiological hypertrophy and disease-induced pathological hypertrophy, as this may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets,” the researchers say in their study.

The lesson for those who exercise is that you are doing your body good by engaging in regular exercise — especially for the heart.

In terms of cardiac benefits, previous research has already shown that exercise can help reduce blood pressure, help the heart generate new cells and is overall beneficial for heart health. Exercise can even reverse previous damage done to the heart.

The lesson for people who currently don’t engage in regular exercise is: start doing it. It’s never too late.


Tham, Y.K. et al (2018.) ‘Lipidomic Profiles of the Heart and Circulation in Response to Exercise versus Cardiac Pathology: A Resource of Potential Biomarkers and Drug Targets.’
Cell Reports. Volume 24, ISSUE 10, P2757-2772, September 04, 2018

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