New research utilising data from The Raine Study will examine whether exercising at a young age could have lasting benefits for heart health in later life.
A team of researchers led by Winthrop Professor Daniel Green, Professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Western Australia, will investigate the best ways to improve heart health. Funding was secured as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants scheme announced in December 2020 by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP.
Heart-related problems are the number one cause of death worldwide, killing nearly nine million people in 2019. In Australia, heart-related problems caused 41,800 deaths in 2018, mostly due to coronary heart disease and stroke, the two most common forms of heart disease.
The new study will test findings from a 2017 study in rats which showed that juvenile rats exercising five times a day for four weeks had a 36% increase in the number of heart cells. If these results hold for humans, there are significant implications for public health policy.
In an interview published in the latest issue of Medical Forum Magazine, Prof Green said: “Although we knew that heart cells could increase in size with exercise training, the heart was previously considered incapable of growing new cells after birth. If true in humans, it would have profound implications for lifelong heart function and health.”
Prof Green and his team hope to find answers to several important questions. For example, how is the health of your heart influenced by environmental factors during childhood or even in utero? And when is the best time to apply early health interventions for cardiovascular disease prevention?
For this study, Prof Green is taking advantage of the Raine Study’s significant dataset based on over 30 years of data collected from nearly 3,000 participants and their family members who have taken part in the Raine Study continuously since 1989.
“The Raine Study possesses in utero and longitudinal developmental data of the gen1 offspring [= gen 2/original cohort], with a high ongoing participation rate based on the incredible commitment and generosity of the participants,” Prof Green said. “It is richly characterised, including [obesity], fitness, nutrition, sedentary behaviour and other risk factors across the lifespan of the children, who are now approaching 30 years of age.”
The Raine Study is Australia’s longest running public health study and one of the most successful multi-generational cohort studies anywhere in the world. Now entering its fourth decade, data from the Raine Study provides the foundation for ground-breaking research into the causes of human health by examining health influences, pathways, and outcomes throughout the human lifespan. Data from the Raine Study continues to have significant impact on health policy, practice, and education around the world.
NHMRC Grant Details
Chief investigator: Professor Daniel Green (UWA)
Doctor Andrew Haynes, Associate Professor Joanne McVeigh, Doctor Louise Naylor, Professor Graham Hillis, Professor Keith George
Project: Identifying the optimal age to apply physical activity interventions to improve heart health