Can Cardiovascular Exercise Actually Cause Heart Disease?

woman riding bike

You’ve probably been told that cardiovascular exercise is unambiguously good for you. Whether you’re swimming, biking, running, or working out on the elliptical at your local gym, cardio is the best kind of exercise for your health.

Or is it?

According to a recent study conducted by the DNA Company, 27% of people have a gene that increases their risk of heart disease the more they spend time doing cardiovascular exercise. How can that be possible?

It may sound crazy to think that you might be safer from heart disease if you avoid doing steady state cardio type exercise, but that’s true for some people. There is a point when your body simply can’t handle the oxidative stress put on it by constant cardiovascular exercise.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to stop your favorite type of exercise simply because you have this gene. All you need to do is take some steps to reduce the inflammation so that you don’t have to worry about heart disease in the future.

The link between cardiovascular exercise and heart disease

You might be tempted to think that cardiovascular disease starts in your actual heart, but that’s not usually the case. What typically happens is that the arteries surrounding your heart become inflamed, which eventually leads to problems with your heart health.

Your arteries are responsible for transporting blood throughout your body. If you think about your arteries like a tube, the inner lining of the tube is called the endothelial lining. Based on your genetics, you can either have a stainless steel endothelial lining or a paper-thin endothelial lining. Of course, having the worst version makes you more likely to have inflammation in your arteries.

The gene that determines the condition of your endothelial lining is the 9P21 gene. If you’re like the 27% of people who have the weakest version of this gene, your blood vessels are unable to resist any toxins that enter your bloodstream. Those who have the optimal version of the 9P21 gene, on the other hand, have strong blood vessels with high resistance to inflammation.

This could be the reason why some people smoke their whole lives and live to the ripe old age of 99, while others smoke for a few years and die from heart disease at 45. It all depends on whether you’re genetically predisposed to clear toxins from your bloodstream or not.

Once your arteries become inflamed, your body will respond by deploying cholesterol in order to reduce the inflammation. Eventually, this can lead to cholesterol buildup, which ultimately raises your risk of heart disease.

When doctors see high cholesterol levels, they tend to start by treating the cholesterol itself. Unfortunately this does not deal with the root problem for many people, which is the toxicity in the bloodstream that causes the cholesterol buildup. When the foundational problem of toxicity is dealt with, then the cholesterol problem can be solved permanently.

What are some of the toxins that might enter your bloodstream? Chemicals, mold, pesticides, and – you guessed it – oxidation resulting from cardiovascular exercise.

When you do cardio, you have a high oxygen intake, which is referred to as oxidative stress. After your workout is finished, oxidation can remain in your bloodstream like soot left over after a fire. If your body is unable to clear the oxidation from your blood, it will cause inflammation in your endothelial lining.

That’s why your genes matter. For those with a strong endothelial lining, cardio is completely harmless (and incredibly beneficial for their overall health). For those with a weak endothelial lining, cardio increases their risk of heart disease because of the inflammation it can cause.

Case study: Peter

Peter* was only 38 when he began developing cholesterol issues. Looking at his lifestyle, things didn’t add up. He ate properly, exercised six days a week, and was very conscientious about his overall health.

When Peter reached out to see if there was a problem with his genes, he  found out that he had the weakest version of the 9P21 gene along with the suboptimal version of some important detoxification genes. The load he put on his body as an athlete was causing his arteries to become inflamed.

As an avid tennis player and golfer, Peter’s body experienced large amounts of oxidative stress, as well as exposure to toxic pesticides and chemicals while on the golf course. Because his body was unable to clear these toxins effectively, the cholesterol buildup became too much.

Peter was given personalized recommendations based upon his DNA profile to improve his cholesterol levels. After a few months of changing his habits, Peter was able to find ways to continue playing the sports he loved without exposing his body to harmful toxins and raising his risk of heart disease.

How to prevent heart disease

If you have the suboptimal version of the 9P21 gene, you might be worried that you can never exercise again. That’s not the case. As long as you begin these measures to reduce your cardiovascular inflammation, your body should be able to handle the oxidative stress that comes from cardiovascular exercise. Still, you may need to reduce the intensity and/or frequency of your exercise.

Here are the steps you can take to lower inflammation and reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Eat lots of vitamin B-rich foods, such as sustainable fish, organic eggs, organic spinach, beer yeast, and nutritional yeast
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink green tea twice a day
  • Buy an air filter for your home and office
  • Stop eating fried and sugary foods
  • Test your biomarkers regularly, including your cholesterol profile, homocysteine, hemoglobinA1C, vitamin D, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Prioritize foods that have anthocyanins, such as açaí, plums, blackberries, cherries, figs, raspberries, red cabbage, red potatoes, and eggplant
  • Try supplements like omega-3 fish oil
  • Consider doing more Interval training as opposed to long steady state cardio exercise

Are you wondering whether you’re genetically predisposed towards heart disease? The best way to find out is by decoding your genes through DNA testing so you can discover whether your endothelial lining is weak as well as several other profiles that are related to heart disease.  This way you can then start making the necessary lifestyle changes that are right for you based upon your DNA to minimize your risk for heart disease or help you manage it more effectively. 

Each custom report includes your genetic tendencies as well as practical steps you can take to optimize your health and wellness. You are a unique individual, and you deserve health strategies that reflect your unique genome. 

If you are interested in learning more about the DNA testing I am now using so I can customize my clients lifestyle plans for improving health and longevity then please send me an email to set up a time to discuss this.