Precautions With Exercise For Those With Heart Disease
It is often a scary thought to think about doing exercise when you have been diagnosed with heart disease. You need to know that having heart disease doesn’t mean you have to be an invalid and that in fact, exercise can help you heal from heart disease and make the heart stronger and function better.
How To Start
If you have heart disease and don’t know if your heart can handle the stressors of exercise, the first place to go is to your doctor’s office. At your doctor’s office, you can be scheduled for an exercise stress test to see if your heart can handle moderate exercise.
In a stress test, you are hooked up to monitors that check your heartrate and look for changes in the EKG that indicate stress. Then you get on a treadmill and walk very slowly. After a time, the angle of the treadmill will increase and the treadmill will go faster. The idea is to get up to your target heart rate so you know how much exercise the heart can handle.
If the EKG shows no changes suspicious for blockages of the arteries, your doctor will clear you for exercise. If changes show up that indicate you can’t exercise, the doctor will go further to evaluate what might be going on so that you can eventually go back to exercising again.
No matter what, you should always consult your physical before starting any exercise program to be sure it is safe with your particular heart condition.
Start Your Exercise Program Slowly
As with exercising with other health problems, it is best to start slowly, especially if you do not consider yourself to be physically fit before starting an exercise program. Some people start with going to cardiac rehab where they will teach you how to exercise safely with heart disease. They will start you out slowly and you can do that as part of your initial steps toward further exercising.
Other people just choose to begin an exercise program on their own; knowing that the stress test indicated it was safe to do so. Start by walking for as long as you can until you feel winded but no longer than 30 minutes at a time. If you do not feel winded after thirty minutes, it is likely that you can exercise a little bit faster or do things that are more strenuous as part of your exercise program.
If you have joint problems that preclude walking or running, try joining the YMCA or other health club that has a pool. Exercise for thirty minutes or so in the pool every day or every other day. Now that you belong to the health club, make use of their weight lifting area for weight lifting on the days you do not swim. Weight lifting is generally not hard on your joints and can strengthen your muscles in ways that swimming cannot.
Special Precautions For Heart Patients Who Exercise
While exercise has been known to be beneficial to heart patients and can actually reverse some heart disease by decreasing the size of the plaques in your arteries and strengthening your heart, there are some risks you need to be aware of and protect yourself from.
Your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin tablets when you are diagnosed with heart disease. These should be kept with you at all times when you exercise. If you are exercising and experience chest pain, follow your doctor’s instructions as to how to take the nitroglycerin tablets.
Nitroglycerin dilates your veins so that there is less work on your heart. Most of the time, you can take up to three nitroglycerin tablets every few minutes apart so before you should consider calling 911.
In addition, heart patients also have problems with circulation to their legs. While you may not get chest pain while exercising, you can get pain in your calves or thighs, called “claudication,” indicating that you need to seek medical advice about how to exercise with poor circulation to your legs.