The risk of developing atherosclerosis—a narrowing of the arteries as cholesterol plaque builds up, leading to obstruction of blood flow—is higher for people with autoimmune rheumatic diseases than for the general population. As a result, they are more likely to have heart attacks and other cardiovascular disorders.
The good news, according to a new study published in Rheumatology, is that regular exercise is a powerful weapon against vascular dysfunction in these patients.
In the article, researchers working in Brazil and the United Kingdom report the results of a systematic review of the scientific literature on the subject. The review, which was supported by FAPESP , covered ten studies involving 355 volunteers with various diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and spondyloarthritis (inflammation of the spine). The subjects took exercise programs such as walking in a park or on a treadmill, stationary cycling, high-intensity interval training, and muscle building. Most of the programs lasted 12 weeks.
“Our analysis of the results showed that exercise improved small and large vessel endothelial function to a clinically significant extent. Accordingly, we suggested that exercise can be considered ‘medication’ for these patients because of its potential to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events,” said Tiago Peçanha , first author of the article. Peçanha is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil.
These rheumatic diseases, he explained, are the result of an imbalance in the immune system that leads to the production of antibodies against the subject’s own organism, especially joints, muscles, ligaments and […]
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