Ever wondered why stressing your heart at the gym is GOOD for your health, but stress created by, say, high blood pressure is BAD for you? A new study gives us a clue. Researchers studying mice found an ‘epigenetic switch,’ triggered by stress, which can help protect against (or predispose you to) heart failure. Exercising seems to help train that ‘switch’ to stay in the protective position.

However, the key seems to be taking periodic breaks to recover during your workout. A great reason to stop and grab a drink!

RESEARCHERS FIND AN EPIGENETIC EXPLANATION BEHIND PHYSIOLOGICAL VS. PATHOLOGICAL STRESS ON THE HEART

In the exercise community, it is often preached that working out is a form of medicine and can be crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Routine exercise helps to retain healthy body weight and has been shown to lower the risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. It’s even been shown to keep the brain healthy. High-intensity exercise places a “good stress” on the heart allowing robust function – but why is stress from exercise considered good, and stress from high blood pressure considered bad? We already know that epigenetics plays a role in muscle memory and it may provide an explanation here as well.

Researchers from the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) and Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany have discovered that a stress-responsive epigenetic switch called histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) may be responsible for enabling or preventing heart failure depending on which metabolic pathway is switched on when the heart is put under stress. Their study was published in Nature Medicine.

The research team placed two types of stress on the hearts of mice: “good” physiological stress from exercise and “bad” pathological stress from high blood pressure. They aimed to determine the effects that each form of stress had on overall heart health and examined a chain of metabolic processes.

Ultimately, they found that a previously undetected signal pathway could cause or protect someone from heart failure. At the end of the signal pathway, more HDAC4 fragments were found in the hearts of the healthy mouse after exercise. Conversely, the mice with high blood pressure did not generate any HDAC4, meaning that healthy stress led to the healthy pathway, and the unhealthy stress took the pathway towards heart failure.

To test this further, the researchers created genetically modified mice that were unable to generate any HDAC4 fragments. After the mice underwent physiological stress, they found that exercise no longer had a healthy effect, and the mice ultimately ended up developing a temporary heart failure. This suggests that HDAC4 could be the epigenetic switch responsible for maintaining a healthy heart.

So what makes physiological stress good and pathological stress bad? Professor Johannes Backs from the DZHK speculates that the frequent breaks that exercise offers are the difference maker. During the rest periods experienced in exercise, an enzyme called protein kinase A recovers and enables the activation of the HDAC4 fragments to follow the healthy pathway of the metabolic chain. This may also explain why high-intensity sports without breaks can cause damage to the athlete’s heart. Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart

Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart
Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart
Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart
Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart

Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart

Epigenetics May Explain Why Stress From Exercise Is Good For The Heart

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