Nav: Home

Study helps explain why exercise guards against heart disease

November 07, 2019

Regular exercise protects the cardiovascular system by reducing risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure. "But we believe there are certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease that are not fully understood," says Matthias Nahrendorf, MD, PhD, of the Center for Systems Biology at MGH. In particular, Nahrendorf and his team wanted to better understand the role of chronic inflammation, which contributes to the formation of artery-clogging blockages called plaques.

Nahrendorf and colleagues examined how physical activity affects the activity of bone marrow, specifically hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). HSPCs can turn into any type of blood cell, including white blood cells called leukocytes, which promote inflammation. The body needs leukocytes to defend against infection and remove foreign bodies. "But when these cells become overzealous, they start inflammation in places where they shouldn't, including the walls of arteries," says Nahrendorf.

In the Nature Medicine study, Nahrendorf and his colleagues studied a group of laboratory mice who were housed in cages with treadmills. Some of the mice ran as much as six miles a night on the spinning wheels. Mice in a second group were housed in cages without treadmills. After six weeks, the running mice had significantly reduced HSPC activity and lower levels of inflammatory leukocytes than other mice who simply sat around their cages all day.

Nahrendorf explains that exercising caused the mice to produce less leptin, a hormone made by fat tissue that helps control appetite, but also signals HSPCs to become more active and increase production of leukocytes. In two large studies, the team detected high levels of leptin and leukocytes in sedentary humans who have cardiovascular disease linked to chronic inflammation.

"This study identifies a new molecular connection between exercise and inflammation that takes place in the bone marrow and highlights a previously unappreciated role of leptin in exercise-mediated cardiovascular protection," said Michelle Olive, PhD, program officer at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Division of Cardiovascular Sciences. "This work adds a new piece to the puzzle of how sedentary lifestyles affect cardiovascular health and underscores the importance of following physical activity guidelines."

Reassuringly, the study found that lowering leukocyte levels by exercising didn't make the running mice vulnerable to infection. This study underscores the importance of regular physical activity, but further focus on how exercise dampens inflammation could lead to novel strategies for preventing heart attacks and strokes. "We hope this research will give rise to new therapeutics that approach cardiovascular disease from a completely new angle," says Nahrendorf.
-end-
The primary authors of the Nature Medicine paper are Nahrendorf, who is also a professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School; Vanessa Frodermann, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow at MGH who is now a senior scientist at Novo Nordisk; David Rohde, MD, a research fellow in the Department of Radiology at MGH; and Filip K. Swirski, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Radiology at MGH.

The work was funded by grants HL142494 and HL139598 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2019 the MGH was once again named #2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its list of "America's Best Hospitals."

Massachusetts General Hospital

Related Cardiovascular Disease Articles:

Dilemma of COVID-19, aging and cardiovascular disease
Whether individuals should continue to take angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers in the context of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is discussed in this article.
Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
New insights into the effect of aging on cardiovascular disease
Aging adults are more likely to have - and die from - cardiovascular disease than their younger counterparts.
Premature death from cardiovascular disease
National data were used to examine changes from 2000 to 2015 in premature death (ages 25 to 64) from cardiovascular disease in the United States.
Ultrasound: The potential power for cardiovascular disease therapy
In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications volume 4, issue 2, pp.
Despite the ACA, millions of Americans with cardiovascular disease still can't get care
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for Americans, yet millions with CVD or cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) still can't access the care they need, even years after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Excess weight and body fat cause cardiovascular disease
In the first Mendelian randomization study to look at this, researchers have found evidence that excess weight and body fat cause a range of heart and blood vessel diseases (rather than just being associated with it).
Enzyme may indicate predisposition to cardiovascular disease
Study suggests that people with low levels of PDIA1 in blood plasma may be at high risk of thrombosis; this group also investigated PDIA1's specific interactions in cancer.
Cardiovascular disease in China
This study analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease Study to look at the rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in China along with death and disability from CVD from 1990 to 2016.
Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease in women
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease in Women In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications (Special Issue on Women's Cardiovascular Health, Volume 3, Number 4, 2019, Guest Editor Gladys P.
More Cardiovascular Disease News and Cardiovascular Disease Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.