"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Exercise when you might have heart disease.

You have just discovered that you just need surgery to switch a damaged heart valve. Or you will have had a heart attack, or have recently been diagnosed with mild heart failure. Learning that you might have heart disease may be stressful. But don't let fear or worry stop you from taking steps to heal and strengthen your heart.

Exercise is one of the crucial essential things you may do to stop every type of heart disease from getting worse — not to say prevent heart problems. “As long as you're exercising safely, the benefit far outweighs the risk,” says Dr. Scully. Your age, current fitness level, and diagnosis will influence what makes essentially the most sense for you. But everyone can exercise, and even a small amount could make a difference, he adds.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Many individuals with heart disease qualify for cardiac rehabilitation. An initial assessment includes an exercise stress test, a closely monitored workout on a treadmill or stationary bike that measures how your heart and body reply to exercise. The results may help your rehabilitation team make secure, effective recommendations for physical activity.

Unfortunately, not everyone who qualifies for cardiac rehab has easy accessibility to such a program, which generally requires you to attend a couple of times per week for several months. However, a hybrid program that features some online sessions could also be available (see “A Virtual Approach to Heart Repair” in October 2022 Heart Letter).

Another option is to ask your cardiac surgeon, cardiologist, or primary care doctor to prescribe an exercise stress test, which may be reassuring for people who find themselves anxious about exercising, says Dr. Scully. are If you're generally healthy, your doctor may resolve that you just don't need a stress test and you may start exercising on your personal.

After a procedure

After any procedure, wait until your doctor gives you the green light to start out exercising. After angioplasty (a minimally invasive procedure to widen a narrowed or blocked heart artery), you may often resume your normal activities after two days. If you had a procedure to treat a heart attack, chances are you’ll have to take it easy for some time. People often need a month or more to completely recuperate from open-heart surgery, which requires cutting the breastbone. But that doesn't mean avoiding exercise as you recuperate. In fact, one small study found that starting cardiac rehab just two weeks after surgery was just as effective and possibly as secure as waiting six weeks, Dr. Scully says.

The excellent news is that folks often have more energy and stamina after heart repair. Take it easy at first, Dr. Scully says, starting “low and slow,” especially if exercise isn't a part of your routine. Walking outside or on the treadmill for just five minutes at a time several times a day is a very good solution to start. Keep adding a couple of minutes to your walk each week, until you're at the very least 20 minutes a day. Pay attention to how you are feeling, and if that feels right, increase the intensity by brisk walking (and even jogging).

Rest as needed.

Even individuals who have never exercised and have several serious health problems can still exercise. “I have patients with heart failure and obesity who tell me they can't walk for more than a minute,” says Dr. Scally.

Her tip: Place a chair at each end of your driveway, or whatever short distance you may manage. Walk forwards and backwards between chairs, sitting all the way down to rest when you want to catch your breath. Try doing 4 laps within the morning, after which one other 4 within the afternoon. “Even just 30 seconds at a time is enough to make progress,” he says. And regardless of what your fitness level, at all times stop or decelerate when you feel dizzy, weak, or in need of breath.

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