Exercise tips for heart problems Healthy heart Part 2

Heart Problems and Exercise: Learn methods to keep your heart healthy!

Part 2: Exercise tips for heart problems Healthy heart, exercising with heart problems (below)

Part 1: Exercise tips for heart problems, an overview.

Part 3: Exercising with Heart Problems

  • Exercising after a heart event

When exercising after a heart event, it is important to keep aware of what your health care team is recommending, but it is also important to begin to believe in your abilities again and your confidence. Give a little trust to your cardiologist, your personal physician and to your exercise professional. This may be difficult at first, but that’s okay!

Monitoring your heart rate (HR) prior to your warm-up, and during exercise, along with throughout the session and after exercise, will help ensure safe exercise boundaries are maintained. You will find that after a few sessions, you will know where your heart rate is from the repeated process of checking it while under exercise stress. It’s still important to monitor your heart rate as you develop through your exercise program, however, perhaps not as frequent. Typically your doctor will give you HR parameters and inform you when you will need to monitor it, which he will share with your exercise professional with your consent.

Some of you may have internal or external heart defibulators, which will monitor your heart for you. As you progress in strength and conditioning, these defibulators will need to be adjusted by your cardiologist as your ability to withstand stress (exercise) increases and your heart becomes more conditioned. Generally the cardiologist will have you do follow up stress tests, or if your machine is high tech enough, the device can have its information reviewed by the doctor and adjusted accordingly. It’s a wonderful experience to work harder in exercise with less effort when you have heart issues. Exercise will bring you to this euphoria. I know how coming to terms with having an implant or device to monitor your heart can take some time to come to emotional terms with. That’s okay. Exercise will allow you to feel confident that you are able and the device will seem to leave your minds presence while working out at least.

In spite of the clear scientific evidence and the real benefits of doing exercise, many people are not taking advantage of this inexpensive means of bettering their health. The New England Journal of Medicine also reports, “Despite the well-established benefits of exercise and nutritional counseling, physicians are generally not well trained, and do not have the time to provide effective nutritional advice, guidance about weight management, and a prescription for exercise. The provision of all these services at cardiac-rehabilitation centers, with the use of well-established algorithms to set goals for risk reduction and in coordination with the primary care physician, is efficient and effective.” (Volume 345:892-902, 9/20/01, Number 12, Philip A. Ades, M.D.)

Not only are people and patients with heart conditions not taking advantage of exercise, but physicians tend not to have the time or training to provide guidance for the patients that do have the motivation. It’s a horrid phenomena that in our contemporary times physicians are time crunched due to packed schedules and tail chasing in the form of redundant paperwork (another article completely.) Dr. Steven D. Knope writes in Concierge Medicine about the benefit of returning doctors to the time when they actually cared about their patients, knew them by name, and spent more than 5 minutes with them. In fact, Dr. Knope has completed 4 Ironman Triathlons of his own, and prescribes exercise regularly, often in conjunction with recommendations from specialists depending on the individuals needs and desires. This is what is referred to as your health care team at work! Science has proven that exercise will benefit your heart and will either save your life or make your quality of life better. It is up to you to get off your duff and make sure your personal health care team gives you a sound, safe and effective exercise training program. Quit making excuses, and start making progress in your health!

Once you have your personal physician on board, your cardiologist (usually the cardiologist and your personal physician will consult with each other in private or over the telephone about recommendations for you), and your exercise professional, it is time to start your exercise programming and take action!

Some of the regular questions that I get from heart patients are:

  • Questions:
  1. Do I only do cardio? Or do I lift weights too, isn’t that too much for my heart?!
  2. Should I rest more when exercising?
  3. My cardiologist says it is okay to exercise, but I’m afraid to do certain exercises right now, can we not do some of them?
  • Answers:
  1. Typically cardio exercise will be included in your exercise programming, though at a maintenance level. The greatest thing about the cardiopulmonary system is that you gain incredible benefits from consistency. You can also, for example, run a mile and get a similar cardio progression by reducing the intensity to walking but increasing the duration of the exercise by say walking two miles. You run for a mile, get done quicker, but it’s a lot of stress on your heart and body, perhaps too much right now. Instead, you walk two miles and you get a similar increase in your cardio output as in the running example but with mild to low stress on your heart and body; how wonderful!
  2. Yes. That is the short and sweet answer. Every person and situation is a little different though and I will leave the specifications for your health care team to recommend. Usually, if you haven’t been exercising, you will need to give extra rest in between your lifting weight sets, to allow your HR to stay within the specified ranges.
  3. Absolutely! You do not have to do all of the exercises that are being recommended by your trainer. Simply tell him/her you do not want to do that exercise right now and explain why. If they are worth their sense in salt, they will give you liberty to be a part of your exercise recommendation and tailor it to your wants and desires, in addition to your needs. If not, next! Go get another trainer.

Regarding your goals, my recommendation for you is to think long-term. Also, allow yourself some mental freedom by not thinking about how light or heavy the weights that you are working with are. Make it a goal, a primary goal, to just show up and do the exercises recommended by your exercise professional for at least the first few months. If you can be consistent, you are ahead of the game and youwill make amazing progress. The main stumbling block for exercisers is getting to the gym, even when they are completely healthy. If you’ve had a heart event, you were immediately tossed into the fire and it’s highly important to you right now to proceed in a way that keeps you healthy, safe, and into a place of better health. I’ve had many of my heart patient clients actually be in better shape after their heart event, then prior to, physically. You can too!

Most doctors and health professionals will tell you specifically things to do and not to do, for your health, especially after a heart event. My recommendations tend to be custom tailored to my clients desires and wants, but also include the recommendations from the doctors and other health professionals. For example, if you are a tennis player and you absolutely love tennis and your doctor recommends that you don’t ever play tennis again; I will tailor your exercise program to give you the best possible outcome to enhance your tennis game. Why? Well, because you will most likely go do those things anyway and I aim to give you the best health and body possible to do those things that you enjoy. I will not contradict the doctor’s, but I will tailor your program to suit you, because your needs and wants are unique; just like your heart. I give you this example so when you are interviewing your exercise professional, you can come up with some ideas and questions of your own for him/her. That is what your first meeting with your exercise professional should be: an interview. Just because your doctor recommended this person, does not mean that you have to work with them. Many times there is a personality conflict or you just feel uncomfortable. That is okay! Just be kind, state that you are interviewing potential trainers, and that you will let them know. Then, move on! See How to Choose a Personal Trainer, for tips on trainer selection. Also, if you do not have a gym to choose your trainer from, check out How to Select a Gym!

Your heart is a wonderful and amazing organ. You, having had had an episode, will know more about your heart condition than your exercise professional, your personal physician and even sometimes, more than your cardiologist! Do not be afraid to voice your knowledge. Actually, writing that makes me realize that heart patients tend to be unique in this sense: they become ultra knowledgeable about their heart and hearts in general. This helps when speaking with your cardiologist, and if your exercise professional is adept enough, he/she will know a great deal about the heart and heart conditions too. This working knowledge between all of you will no doubt be a benefit for your health and to keep meetings and discussions efficient, which is especially important for your doctor.

In conclusion; may your heart become stronger and your knowledge become greater in these coming days, weeks and months following your heart episode! I wish upon you more confidence and emotional relief from your upcoming exercise. Follow this series by reading Part 3 about my own experience with heart surgery and its effects on me!


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