One Health Global Exchange Academy

Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health

Costa Rica is for the most part an outdoors country, endowed with unparallel natural beauty, high biodiversity and recognized as world’s environmental leader, it represents a perfect setting for performing physical activity and at the same time achieve relaxation and mindfulness. However, local health authorities keep fighting sedentarism as a measure to tackle cardiovascular mortality, which remains the first cause of death since the 70’s. Understanding this paradox will be one of the goals of our Study Abroad Learning Experience.

Physical exercise stands as a powerful shield against cardiovascular-related mortality, underscoring its profound significance in promoting heart health and longevity. Rigorous scientific evidence attests to the transformative impact of regular exercise on our cardiovascular system.

Engaging in physical activity enhances the efficiency of the heart and strengthens the cardiovascular muscles. Regular exercise contributes to lowered blood pressure, reduced levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL), and increased levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL), creating an environment that is less conducive to the development of arterial plaque and blockages.

Exercise also fosters weight management and reduces the risk of obesity, a major contributor to heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight lightens the workload on the heart, improving its overall function and decreasing the likelihood of heart-related complications.

Furthermore, physical activity bolsters the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes—a significant cardiovascular risk factor. It also enhances the body's sensitivity to insulin, an essential hormone in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Regular exercise serves as a powerful stress reducer, which plays an indirect yet crucial role in cardiovascular health. Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Engaging in physical activity helps manage stress, contributing to a more harmonious physiological environment.

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Crucially, exercise promotes the dilation of blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart and other organs. This supports the heart's ability to pump efficiently and decreases the strain on the cardiovascular system.

Students engaging in this Study Abroad Learning Experience, will take part in the delivery of physical activities organized by the primary care units (EBAIS), and will learn how to educate patients about its importance in reducing the load of cardiovascular-related mortality. Likewise, students will understand the extended benefits of regular physical activity, from regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels to managing weight and stress, collectively fortify the cardiovascular system and mitigate the risk of heart disease. Therefore, by incorporating exercise programs into our lifestyles, we actively invest in our heart health, paving the way for a longer, healthier life.

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