Exercise and Your Heart
Exercise can improve the way we look and feel. It also has other benefits.
What Kind of Exercise is Best for the Heart?
Exercise must be tailored to each person's needs. The type of exercise your doctor will suggest is called aerobic or isotonic exercise. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, cycling and swimming. These exercises increase the flow of blood to the heart muscle and body tissues.
Patients with heart disease should initially avoid isometric exercise. Isometric activities include weight lifting, pushing against an immovable wall, or straining to open a window. The pressure or tension created by this activity:
Avoid straining and heavy lifting. Instead, look for ways to perform aerobic exercises.
**After about one month of regular aerobic exercise and with doctor approval:
Light resistive weight training may be safely started with close supervision and strict guidelines. Light resistive weight training should always be used with (not in place of) aerobic exercise.
Activity & Exercise After a Cardiac Event
Remember, activity and exercise after a cardiac event must be done in a safe manner. Activity and exercise for the cardiac patient begins at a low level and gradually increases to a higher level. While you are in the hospital, the Cardiac Rehabilitation staff may work with your doctors to develop an exercise program to meet your needs. They will also help you safely increase your level of activity.
When you are ready to go home, your doctor and/or the Cardiac Rehabilitation staff may give you a Home Walking Program tailored to your needs. You will also be given a target pulse rate to follow. Your pulse will be your guide to activity. If your pulse exceeds the target rate, you know that you are doing too much exercise and that you need to slow down. If your pulse never reaches the target range and you feel as if you are not working, you may need to increase your pace. It is important to remember that exercise must be done on a regular basis to gain the full benefits of an exercise program.
General Activity Guidelines
Avoid crossing your legs while you are in bed or sitting in a chair. Pressure on the area behind your knee may decrease blood flow in the legs. Relax for at least 30-60 minutes after eating before starting any vigorous activity. Avoid unusual tensing and straining of the body.
If you've had heart surgery:
Ask your doctor when you may resume sexual activities. In general, it is safe to resume sexual activity if you are able to climb two flights of stairs without chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. To conserve energy during sexual activities:
Points to Remember About Exercise
For more risk reduction information:
Take Your Pulse
Since your pulse is one guide to exercising at the right pace, it is important that you learn how to take it yourself. Your pulse is simple to take; it can be felt with every beat (or pulsation) of the heart in various arteries throughout the body.
To take your pulse, keep a watch or clock with a second hand or a stopwatch in sight. Be sure to wear a watch with a second hand if you are walking outdoors. Locate an area to feel the pulse beats. The pulse beats can be felt over any number of arteries. The radial artery in the wrist area is one of the safest sites for taking the pulse. (This is called the radial pulse.)
Your pulse should feel regular and rhythmic, like the beat of a drum. If your pulse is irregular, notify your doctor.
Home Walking Program
Your home walking program should begin the day after discharge from the hospital. Walking may be done indoors or outdoors. Indoor walking can be done in your home, in building hallways, or in a shopping mall.
If you will be walking outdoors, follow these guidelines:
In Winter: No outdoor exercise if the temperature is less than 20 degrees or if the wind chill factor is less than 10 degrees.
In Summer: No outdoor exercise if the humidity is greater than 75% or if the temperature is greater than 80 degrees. The best times for exercising are early morning or early evening.
If you have had angioplasty or stenting only (no heart attack), ask your doctor for guidelines.
If your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin tablets for you, always carry them with you on your walk. If you have signs of angina (chest, arm, neck, or jaw pain or discomfort, or the pain that you know as your heart pain), STOP WALKING AND SIT DOWN. If the angina is not relieved after a couple of minutes of rest, take a nitroglycerin tablet under your tongue. You may take up to 3 nitroglycerin tablets, each 5 minutes apart. If the discomfort is not relieved after a total of 3 nitroglycerin tablets, call 9-1-1 or the emergency number in your area or go to the nearest Emergency Room. Do not drive yourself. If the symptoms are relieved, you should still call your doctor.
If any of the following persist, contact your doctor:
After discharge, visit the Health Learning Center (3rd Floor Galter Pavilion) for more information. The Health Learning Center staff can help you access websites that discuss exercise and health.
For questions or concerns regarding exercise, call 312-926-7883.
Record walks every day. Take your home exercise log to your follow-up doctor appointments.
For more information regarding the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 312-NM-HEART (664-3278) or request a first time appointment online.