Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk
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HEART DISEASE is the third biggest cause of death in the UK right now, behind Covid-19 and dementia. You can reduce your risk of getting coronary heart disease, but once you’ve got it you can’t completely cure it. If you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, you may have had surgery or angioplasty. Alternatively, your doctor might have recommended lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, or you may have been prescribed medicines. Whether or not people with heart disease should exercise is hotly debated as raised heart rate and blood pressure could be dangerous for some patients. Express.co.uk spoke to Elijah Behr, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London to find out whether or not people with heart disease should exercise.
Starting to exercise after experiencing a problem with your heart can be scary, as we all know that exercise raises your heart rate and blood pressure temporarily.
While rest and relaxation might seem like the best thing for someone with heart disease, regular exercise is essential for heart and overall health.
According to cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare, Elijah Behr, even people whose conditions put them at higher risk of cardiac arrest can exercise safely, including those with heart disease.
For the vast majority of people with heart disease, there’s no excuse not to exercise.
You should always consult your doctor before trying anything intense or discussing your concerns, but most of the time exercise will benefit your heart.
Dr Behr said: “Even in patients with damaged hearts that are causing heart failure, exercise can be important for improving quality of life.
“However, this has to be within reason and care should be taken to avoid exacerbating the underlying condition.”
The underlying heart condition should be considered when developing an exercise plan, as not every type of exercise will be suitable for heart disease patients.
Dr Berh explained: “If someone has coronary artery disease, meaning furring, or blockage, of the arteries due to cholesterol, then over-exercising may cause chest pain and increase the risk from the underlying condition.
“On the other hand, patients with conditions that are not worsened by exercise, such as some heart rhythm problems, may exercise as much as they wish.”
Cardiovascular fitness refers to exercise that uses the cardiovascular system (the heart, lungs and vessels) to supply oxygenated blood to working muscles during the workout.
You may be nervous about trying cardio exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, rowing, climbing, but it’s extremely important.
Dr Behr said: “Heart disease patients can undertake cardiovascular exercise and indeed this can be very good for their well-being and prognosis.
However, the intensity and period of the cardio exercise must be tailored to their condition, Dr Behr said.
The cardiologist explained: “In general, if the condition is negatively affected by exercise, high-intensity, endurance or competitive sports are best avoided and a personalised approach from a cardiologist is advised.”
Instead of sprinting on a running machine, trying a military workout class, or joining a football team, try a gentle walk or swim.
Avoiding excessively intense or prolonged exercise or competitive sports is usually the key to minimising risk while maximising the benefit from exercise in patients with conditions that place them at risk of cardiac arrest, Dr Behr says.
If you’re working out and something doesn’t feel right, slow down and rest – you may be working out too intensely.
Dr Behr warned: “If patients have chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, or dizziness during exercise, they should stop exercising immediately and seek medical help, he advises.”
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