Selection of endurance capabilities and the trade-off between pressure and volume in the evolution of the human heart: A trade-off that has shaped the evolution of the human heart

Robert Shave, Daniel Lieberman, Aimee Drane, Marcel Brown, Alan M Batterham, Steven Worthington, Rebeca Atencia, Yedra Feltra, Jennifer Neary, Rory Weiner, Megan Wasfy, Aaron Baggish

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Abstract

Chimpanzees and gorillas, when not inactive, engage primarily in
short bursts of resistance physical activity (RPA), such as climbing
and fighting, that creates pressure stress on the cardiovascular
system. In contrast, to initially hunt and gather and later to farm,
it is thought that preindustrial human survival was dependent on
lifelong moderate-intensity endurance physical activity (EPA),
which creates a cardiovascular volume stress. Although derived
musculoskeletal and thermoregulatory adaptations for EPA in humans
have been documented, it is unknown if selection acted
similarly on the heart. To test this hypothesis, we compared left
ventricular (LV) structure and function across semiwild sanctuary
chimpanzees, gorillas, and a sample of humans exposed to markedly
different physical activity patterns. We show the human LV possesses
derived features that help augment cardiac output (CO)
thereby enabling EPA. However, the human LV also demonstrates
phenotypic plasticity and, hence, variability, across a wide range of
habitual physical activity. We show that the human LV’s propensity
to remodel differentially in response to chronic pressure or volume
stimuli associated with intense RPA and EPA as well as physical inactivity
represents an evolutionary trade-off with potential implications
for contemporary cardiovascular health. Specifically, the
human LV trades off pressure adaptations for volume capabilities
and converges on a chimpanzee-like phenotype in response to physical
inactivity or sustained pressure loading. Consequently, the derived
LV and lifelong low blood pressure (BP) appear to be partly
sustained by regular moderate-intensity EPA whose decline in postindustrial
societies likely contributes to the modern epidemic of hypertensive
heart disease.
blood pressure | physical activity | left ventricle | trade-off |
human evolution
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2019

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