Physical activity in the prevention of coronary heart disease: implications for the clinician

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Abstract

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be a leading cause of death worldwide. Because regular physical activity (PA) independently decreases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) while also having a positive, dose-related impact on other cardiovascular (CV) risk factors, it has increasingly become a focus of CHD prevention. Current guidelines recommend 30 min of moderate-intensity PA 5 days a week, but exercise regimens remain underused. PA adherence can be fostered with a multilevel approach that involves active individual participation, physician counselling and health coaching, community involvement, and policy change, with incorporation of cardiac rehabilitation for patients requiring secondary prevention. Viewing exercise quantity as a vital sign, prescribing PA like a medication, and using technology, such as smartphone applications, encourage a global shift in focus from CVD treatment to prevention. Community-wide, home-based and internet-based prevention initiatives may also offer a developing pool of resources that can be tapped into to promote education and PA compliance. This review summarises the underlying rationale, current guidelines for and recommendations to cultivate a comprehensive focus in the endorsement of PA in the primary and secondary prevention of CHD.

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