Regular Exercise Is Important When You Have Heart Disease
When you have heart disease, exercise is an important part of keeping your condition under control. Exercise causes the heart to pump blood into the circulation more efficiently, increased perfusion of tissues and organs with blood, and increased oxygen delivery. Exercise is protective against metabolic syndrome, lowers blood pressure, works against blood clotting, and lowers stress, all of which contribute to improved cardiovascular health.
For patients with heart disease: get yourself prepared to work out
As with anything, it is best to check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to start exercising.
Appropriate exercise for patients with heart disease
- Patients with heart condition should be assessed by heart specialists.
- Cardiologist – evaluate heart rate and rhythm during exercise and explain signs and symptoms of the condition and complications to the patient
- Cardiac rehabilitation doctor – design appropriate exercise program to meet your needs
- The length of exercise should be around 30 minutes per day at least 5 days a week. It is important to warm-up before exercising and cool-down after the session. Also, the patient should find a friend to exercise with and have a telephone within reach.
- Do not exercise right after having a meal. You should wait at least 1 ½ hour after having a meal. Do not exercise if you are not feeling well.
- Drink enough water between and after exercising to replace the fluid you lose.
- Choose appropriate places for exercise – good air circulation, not too hot or too cold. Wear appropriate workout clothes and footwear.
- Bring your medication with you – nitroglycerin – to prevent angina attacks.
- Brisk walking – is generally a safe way to exercise for patients with heart condition. It is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day and can be performed at your own pace. Keep a moderately intense pace. Your heart rate should be 60-70% of maximum heart rate (maximum heart rate = 220 – age (years)). Patients should get 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week.
- Running – has positive influence on the heart and takes less time than walking. Running enables the body to use the oxygen to the maximum and the heart to work more efficiently, pumping more blood with every beat. Moreover, it can also reduce stress and improve sleep.
- Swimming – improves heart and lung capacity, but is gentle on your joints. It can improve cardiovascular fitness as well as muscle strength. As swimming places less demand on the heart than running and other sports, you will not get too tired.
- Tai chi – is a slow and gentle exercise and does not leave you breathless, so it is an appropriate exercise for patients with heart conditions. It addresses the key components of fitness - muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. It helps improve circulation and reduce fall risk.
Being active when you have heart disease is important. The most important thing to remember is that the patient must know the limits. It is important that you pay attention to warning signs – chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Stop what you are doing and consult a doctor right away.
Most importantly, the patient should not exercise alone and have a telephone within reach.
Dr. Anusith Tunhasiriwet, a cardiologist, Bangkok heart hospital