Exercising With Heart Disease
Exercise plays an important role in
both the prevention and rehabilitation of many forms of heart 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 cholesterol, diabetes and
Coronary 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 calcium.
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.
So you have coronary artery disease
If you have been diagnosed with
coronary artery disease and you want to begin an exercise program, you need to
obtain guidelines and instructions from your physician or other qualified health
Individuals recently diagnosed with
coronary artery disease are often referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs are available through hospitals and are staffed
by trained nurses and exercise physiologists who are able to carefully monitor
patients during exercise.
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.
General exercise guidelines
If you recently had a heart attack or
heart surgery, you must get medical clearance and guidelines from a physician
before increasing your activity level.
Monitor your exercise intensity
closely. Make sure to stay within your individual heart-rate zone (usually
determined by a physician from a treadmill test).
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 warm-up
and 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 six months.
Inform your physician if you have any
abnormal signs or symptoms before, during or after exercise. This includes chest
pain, labored breathing or extreme fatigue.
If prescribed, always carry your
nitroglycerin with you, especially during exercise.
Never exercise to the point of chest
pain or angina. If you develop chest pain during exercise, call 911 immediately.
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 start.
And remember, always keep your exercise
comfortable. If it's causing discomfort, slow down, you are pushing too hard.