Sitting Too Much Can Change The Shape Of Your Heart, According To Science
It's 2019, and chances are, you sit way too much. In fact, it's estimated that Americans sit about 10 hours per day on average. We already know this fact is bad news for our health—previous research has linked sitting for long periods of time to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and cardiovascular disease—but now, a new study shows that sitting too much can actually change the shape of our hearts entirely.
Comparing the shapes of human hearts.
To investigate the relationship between physical activity and heart shape, the authors of the study compared the hearts of more than 160 adult men using ultrasound imaging. The men were divided into four groups: long-distance runners, football linemen, the Tarahumara Native American farmers (who are well-known for their running abilities), and sedentary adults. The researchers looked specifically at the left ventricle, which is the thickest of all four heart chambers.
The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (or PNAS) showed obvious differences between the heart shapes of the men in all four groups. The ultrasound showed that endurance runners and farmers had long ventricles and thin walls, an adaptation that helps them run for long periods of time. This came as no surprise since according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, humans—with our shock-absorbing joints and springy tendons—are built for endurance.
Sitting too much can make your heart rounder.
In comparison, the hearts of the linemen and sedentary group displayed thicker ventricle walls and shorter ventricles that were much wider. Essentially, their hearts were rounder. So what explains this? According to the authors, linemen develop this heart shape to make sure enough blood is flowing to the brain to maintain consciousness during high-intensity activity; meanwhile, sedentary individuals seem to have this heart shape because of their lack of activity.
Although our heart's ability to change shape is technically an evolutionary adaptation, the authors explain that it can actually be detrimental in these circumstances, making it harder for us to deal with hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which are extremely prevalent in modern humans.
The good news is that according to the authors, these changes in heart shape could very likely be reversed by the right lifestyle changes. They suggest making endurance activities like running, cycling, or swimming to support endurance. Excuse us while we sign up for the next triathlon...
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