by Jo Cavallo
Exercise is the best medicine for almost everything that ails you, but what should you know to make sure you don’t push yourself too far if you have heart disease?
If you suffer from heart disease, participating in a regular exercise program can help make your heart muscle stronger. Exercise may also help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and control your blood sugar if you have diabetes. However, before embarking on any exercise program or rigorous activity, talk with your doctor to make sure the exercise or activity is safe for you.
This is especially important if: You’ve recently had a heart attack; you are experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath; you have diabetes or you recently had a heart procedure or heart surgery.
Aerobic activity helps your heart use oxygen more efficiently and improves blood flow. Once you’re gotten the okay from your doctor: Start slowly; choose an aerobic activity such as walking, swimming, light jogging, or biking, and plan to do the activity at least three to four times a week; always do five minutes of stretching to warm up your muscles and heart before you exercise harder and take time to rest before you get too tired and if you have any heart symptoms, stop.
Also check with your doctor about what household activities might be too strenuous for you, especially if you’ve recently had a heart attack, and when you can resume your normal daily activity.
For example, after four to six weeks following a heart attack, your doctor may say it’s okay to engage in short periods of light yard work or shopping, as long as you don’t carry heavy bags or walk too far. If you experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, or any of the symptoms you had before your heart attack, stop doing the activity and call your doctor.
Call your doctor immediately if you feel: Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in your chest, arm, neck, or jaw; shortness of breath; gas pains or indigestion; numbness in your arms; sweaty or if you lose color or lightheaded.
Call your doctor immediately if your angina symptoms: Become stronger; occur more often; last longer; occur when you are not active or when you are resting or do not get better when you take your medicine.