With the Olympics ruling the roost now, in the world of sports, we decided, this would be a good time to elaborate on the benefits of physical activity for heart patients. Physical activities have innumerable benefits and should become a part of everyone’s life. Especially for people who are at risk of contracting heart diseases.
Physical activity helps keep your mind and body fresh and healthy. Not only your heart, but every part of your body will benefit from regular exercising. Even people with restrictions can indulge in low-intensity exercises and keep themselves healthy.
If you haven’t ever exercised before or have been physically inactive for a long time, and are now planning on starting exercising, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor first and follow the guidelines prescribed.
Coronary Heart Disease:
As we discussed in our previous article, heart disease is on the rise in India. Studies have shown that there are at present over 30 million cases of CHD in our country. This is an alarming number! CHD is caused by the buildup of plaque within the heart which causes blockages and eventually a heart attack. Studies have shown that a small amount of exercise every day can help the heart function better and reduces the chance a heart disease by effectively managing the risk factors. However, for patients with CHD, simple precautions should be taken while exercising, and these can be discussed with a cardiologist.
How does exercise help?
Exercising may not directly affect your heart, but what it can do is control the risk factors and reduce the chances of a heart attack. The risk factors primarily responsible for CHD are:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Obesity…among others
Regular physical activity helps regulate and control these factors in the following way:
High Blood Pressure – Regular low-intensity exercise can bring down the blood pressure to safer levels. Such activities include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, jumping ropes, skating and aerobics.
Smoking – Exercise can actually help you quit smoking and reduce the feelings of withdrawal, which in turn reduces the risk associated with it.
Diabetes – Regular aerobatic exercise can lower the blood glucose content in your body. Exercising helps your cells use the available insulin and regulate your body’s glucose level.
High Cholesterol – Regular exercising will help bring down the bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and increase the good cholesterol level (HDL cholesterol) in your body.
Obesity – Exercise and planned diets are extremely crucial in the fight against obesity. Regular high and low intensity exercises can help with weight reduction, which in turn will automatically bring about positive changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Apart from this, physical activity will also help you physiologically. When we exercise regularly and maintain a routine, our health improves as does our muscular strength and function. This means, the body is better equipped now to regulate its intake of oxygen. This, in turn, allows us to perform our daily tasks easily and get less tired. This is especially required for patients recovering from CHD. Such patients suffer from physical and mental repercussions resulting from their heart disease and exercising is one of the best ways to get them out of it. Exercising helps in lowering stress and we all know how good that is!
Recommendations for physical activities:
According to most reports and studies, an individual must exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days (every day if possible) to get the best results. These thirty minutes can be spread out through the day and can be broken down into three 10-minute schedules or two 15-minute schedules. This can also be accompanied with an increase in daily physical activities, such as household work, yard work etc.
The intensity of the exercise can range from low or moderate to high intensity, depending on the patient’s physical health. However, individuals who have recently suffered heart attacks should refrain from participating in high-intensity exercises.
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum total physical activity level of 600 MET (metabolic equivalent of task) minutes a week. However, since it wasn’t clear how much physical activity actually helps in reducing the risk factor, a team of researchers from the US and Australia decided to find this out.
The study they conducted:
– Analyzed the results of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016
– Analyzed the association between physical exercise and at least one of the five long-term health conditions namely, Breast Cancer, Bowel Cancer, Diabetes, Ischemic heart disease, and Ischemic stroke.
-The higher the level of weekly activities, the lower the risk for all five conditions.
– The minimum recommended weekly level of 600 MET minutes provided very small benefits in the reduction of the risk of diabetes (just by 2%).
– Increased health benefits were reaped when the activity level was increased to 3000-4000 MET minutes a week.
– 3000 MET minutes a week can be achieved through the following activities: climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for 25 minutes.
In their study the researchers say: “With population aging, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required.”
While exercising is highly recommended for patients recovering from CHD or at risk of contracting it, it is advisable to follow certain precautions to ensure the safety of the patient and reduce any complications that may arise due to it. The guidelines to follow are:
- Always make sure you get your doctors approval before exercising.
- Warm-up and cool down period of 10 minutes should be followed before and after exercising.
- Exercise with a friend or family member, or make sure your phone is available with you, should you need to contact someone in an emergency.
- Do not exercise in extreme weather conditions.
- Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy, nauseous, feel pain in your chest or have difficulty breathing. Contact a doctor immediately.
Individuals who follow the recommended intensity, duration and guidelines of exercising will definitely see a positive impact in their life and health and will reduce their risk of CHD significantly.
Risks of exercise:
While exercising there could always be a chance of getting a cardiac-related complication, but this risk is extremely minimal. In fact, for adults who do not have a pre-existing heart condition, this risk is 1 complication case in 400,000–800,000 hours of exercise and for adults with existing heart condition, the chance of a complication is 1 in 62,000 hours of exercise. On the contrary, individuals who exercise regularly have a lower chance of contracting heart disease, as opposed to those who do not exercise. Exercise is hence extremely safe. However, it is always good to recognize the tell-tale signs of a heart attack, should you encounter one. These symptoms are: pain or pressure on the chest, dizziness, nauseous, irregular heartbeat, pain radiating to the jaw, neck or shoulder region. If any of these symptoms occur, rush to a hospital a.s.a.p.
It can be safely said, that any amount of activity is definitely better than no activity at all. Exercising and participating in various physical activities, throughout the day or the week is important for your good health and a healthy heart. Start with low-intensity activities and build from there and remember, it is never too late to begin exercising. Also, as we have continually mentioned in the article, make sure you have a talk with your doctor before you get started.