With Heart Disease
Although discomfort during exercise is a principal reason that patients
with heart failure seek medical care, exercise training is safe and can benefit
these patients, according to the American Heart Association.
plays an important role in both the prevention and rehabilitation of many forms
disease. Exercise can have a positive influence on many of the factors that
increase the risk for heart disease such as high
blood pressure, high
artery disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease. Others
include hypertension, stroke and congestive heart failure. Coronary artery
disease is almost always the result of a process referred to as atherosclerosis,
the formation of blockages that gradually cause the arteries that supply blood
to the heart to narrow. The blockages consist primarily of fatty substances, cholesterol and
If the blood flow is unable to meet the needs of the heart, people generally
feel chest pressure or a dull ache, sometimes radiating up into the neck, jaw,
left shoulder or arm. This type of pain is referred to as angina. Clots may form
and completely close the vessel, resulting in a heart attack.
General exercise guidelines
Individuals recently diagnosed with coronary artery disease are often
referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program. Many people can safely start
an exercise program at home on their own. Your physician will be able to advise
you as to what type of program is best for you based on your medical history and
present physical condition.
you recently had a heart attack or heart surgery, you must get medical
clearance and guidelines from a physician before increasing your activity
Monitor your exercise
intensity closely. Make sure to stay within your individual
heart-rate zone (usually determined by a physician from a treadmill
test). Your exercise heart rate should be 10 or more beats per minute below
the level that triggers abnormal signs or symptoms. (Count your pulse for 10
seconds and multiply by six to get your heart rate in beats per minute.)
Your doctor should recommend an exercise heart rate that is considered safe
and appropriate for you. This may involve taking an exercise stress test to
determine your peak
Try to exercise at least three to four times per week. Individuals with
low fitness levels
may still benefit from five to 10 minutes of exercise, two to three times
per day. Perform a gradual
cool-down of at least 10 minutes. Total exercise
duration should be gradually increased to 30 to 60 minutes over a period
of one to
months. In addition to a specific exercise program, you can help your heart
further by increasing your activity in daily life. For example, ride a
stationary bicycle while watching TV or reading the newspaper. Take up
gardening, switch to a manual lawn mower, or walk or bike on short errands.
Maybe you could park a mile from work and walk, park your car at the
farthest end of parking lots, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and
walk the dog more often. Use your imagination!
Inform your physician if you have any abnormal signs or symptoms before,
during or after exercise. This includes chest pain, labored breathing or
If prescribed, always carry your nitroglycerin with you, especially
Stay hydrated: It is important to drink water even before you feel
thirsty, especially on hot days.
Don't exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid. High
humidity may cause you to tire more quickly; extreme temperatures can
interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain.
Better choices are indoor activities such as mall walking.
Never exercise to the point of chest pain or angina. If you develop
chest pain during exercise, stop immediately and contact your doctor.
It's never too late to increase your physical activity or start an exercise
program. Get an okay and some guidelines from your physician before you
And remember, always keep your exercise comfortable. If it's causing
discomfort, slow down, you are pushing too hard.
It may help heart patients to include
training in their physical conditioning program. In addition to increasing
your muscle fitness and well-being, strength training can reduce the heart-rate
and blood-pressure responses to upper-body work such as lifting. Thus,
resistance training can decrease the demands on your heart during work and
Heavy loads, can place undue stress on the heart, so use light loads that
permit a lot of repetitions (ideally do 10 to 15) per set. Strength training
should work all the major muscle groups in your body. Single-set programs done
two to three times a week are recommended over multiple-set programs because
they are highly effective and less time-consuming.
Cardiac Warning Signs
You need to stop exercising immediately and consult a doctor if you have:
Pain or pressure anywhere from you neck to your navel,
An abnormal heart rhythm,
Unusual shortness of breath, or
Tips to reduce heart problems:
In addition to exercising, heart patients can take several steps to reduce
the risk of further heart problems:
and nonfat food
items, and eat plenty of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Aim for a low-density
("bad" cholesterol) level under 100 milligrams per deciliter.
Take the medications your doctor has prescribed.
Learn to respond calmly to
situations. Develop stress-reducing techniques like deep
Lower your blood pressure if it is high (140/90 or higher). This typically
involves diet, exercise, and sometimes medication.
Get regular checkups.
Consider joining a cardiac rehabilitation program, which provides guided
exercise and social support.
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical
treatment. Before starting an exercise
program, consult a
Dated 10 February 2012