2 Heart Disease

 

 

Exercise




Being physically active can help reduce the risk of getting heart disease or can help reduce the affect of heart disease.  Heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people.

If you have had a heart attack, regular, physical activity can help reduce your risk of having another heart attack.  People who include regular physical activity in their lives after a heart attack improve their chances of survival and can improve how they feel and look.

If you have had a heart attack, consult your doctor to be sure you are following a safe and effective exercise program that will help prevent heart pain and further damage from overexertion.

Physical Activity Facts

  •  Most older adults donít get enough exercise.

  • Lack of exercise and poor diet, taken together, are the second largest underlying cause of death in the United States. (Smoking is the #1 cause.)

  •  Exercise can help you feel better and enjoy life more, even if you think you're too old or too out of shape.

  •  Regular exercise can improve some diseases and disabilities in older people who already have them. It can improve mood and relieve depression, too.

  •  Exercising on a regular, permanent basis can help prevent or delay heart disease.

What You Can Do

Plan on making physical activity a part of your everyday life. Do things you enjoy. Go for brisk walks. Ride a bike. Dance. And donít stop doing physical tasks around the house and in the yard. Trim your hedges without a power tool. Climb stairs. Rake leaves.

The first step is to get at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe harder, on most or all days of the week. Thatís called ďendurance activity,Ē because it builds your stamina. That way you can keep doing the things you need to do and the things you like to do. If you canít be active for 30 minutes all at once, get at least 10 minutes of endurance activity at a time. If you choose to do 10-minute sessions, make sure that they add up to a total of 30 minutes at the end of the day.

Even a moderate level of sustained activity helps. One doctor describes the right level of effort this way: If you can talk without any trouble at all, your activity is probably too easy. If you canít talk at all, itís too hard.

Studies show that endurance activities help prevent or delay many diseases that seem to come with age. In some cases, endurance activity can also improve heart disease or its symptoms.   

Step two is to keep using your muscles. People lose 20 to 40 percent of their muscle ó and, along with it, their strength ó as they age. Scientists have found that a major reason people lose muscle is because they stop doing everyday activities that use muscle power, not just because they grow older. Lack of use lets muscles waste away.

When you have enough muscle, it can mean the difference between being able to get up from a chair by yourself and having to wait for someone to help you get up. Thatís true for younger adults as well as for people age 90 and older. Very small changes in muscle size, changes that you canít even see, can make a big difference in your being able to live and do things on your own.

You can combine activities ó for example, walking uphill and raking leaves build both endurance and some of your muscles at the same time. Or you can start an exercise program that makes sure you do the right types of activities. (One good reason to start an exercise program is that you will probably work muscles that you may have stopped using without even realizing it. Another is that exercise programs are likely to help you build up ó not just maintain ó your endurance and strength.)

Keeping your muscles in shape can help prevent another serious problem in older people: falls that cause broken hips or other disabilities. When the leg and hip muscles that support you are strong, youíre less likely to fall. And using your muscles may make your bones stronger, too.

Step three is to do things to help your balance. For example, stand on one foot, then the other, without holding onto anything for support. Stand up from sitting in a chair without using your hands or arms. Every now and then, walk heel-to-toe (the toes of the foot in back should almost touch the heel of the foot in front when you walk this way).

Finally, step four is to stretch. Stretching wonít build your endurance or muscles, but it will help keep you limber.

Who Should Exercise?

Just about anyone, at any age, can do some type of activity to improve his or her health. Even if you have a chronic disease like heart disease or diabetes you can still exercise. In fact, physical activity may help your condition, but only if itís done during times when your condition is under control. During flare-ups, exercise could be harmful. You should talk to your doctor for guidance.

Check with your doctor first if you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50 and you plan to do vigorous activity (the kind that makes you breathe and sweat hard) instead of moderate activity. Your doctor might be able to give you a go-ahead over the phone, or he or she might ask you to come in for a visit.

Safety Tips

The following are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:

Start slowly. Build up your activities and your level of effort gradually. Doing too much, too soon, can hurt you, especially if you have been inactive.

Avoid holding your breath while straining ó when using your muscles, for example. If you have high blood pressure, pay special attention to this tip. It may seem strange at first, but the rule is to exhale during muscle exertion; inhale during relaxation. For example, if you are lifting something breathe out on the lift; breathe in on the release.

If you are on any medicines or have any conditions that change your natural heart rate, donít use your pulse rate as a way of judging how hard you should exercise. Beta blockers, a type of blood pressure drug, are an example of this kind of medicine.

Unless your doctor has asked you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty when you are doing endurance activities that make you sweat. Many older people tend to be low on fluid much of the time, even when not exercising.

When you bend forward, bend from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, youíre probably bending correctly. If you let your back ďhumpĒ anyplace, youíre probably bending from the waist, which is the wrong way.

Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you stretch, or you could hurt them. For example, you can do a little easy biking, or walking and light arm pumping first.

None of the exercises should hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a slight discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain, in fact, in many ways, physical activity and exercise will probably make you feel better.

How to Find Out More

Local gyms, universities, or hospitals can help you find a teacher or program that works for you. You can also check with local churches or synagogues, senior and civic centers, parks, recreation associations, YMCAs, YWCAs, or even local shopping malls for exercise, wellness, or walking programs.

 

Click here for tips on eating healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2003.  All rights reserved.  2 Heart Disease

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