Exercise for People with Heart Disease

Work with your physician to develop an exercise plan.

Work with your physician to develop an exercise plan.

Have you been diagnosed with heart disease?  You’re not alone.  More than 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year and unfortunately, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.  But the good news is that there are things you can do to improve your health and prevent a future heart attack.

First Steps to Better Health

In honor of American Heart Month, the American Council on Exercise offers guidelines to help people with heart disease safely improve their health with exercise.  The first step? Connect with your physician.  Your doctor can clear you for exercise and provide guidelines for staying safe while exercising.  In this short video, North Memorial Medical Center’s Dr. Paul Sander, explains that exercise is part of a comprehensive program to keep your heart healthy for life.

Get Cleared and Get Active

During your meeting, talk to your physician about ways that you can participate in healthy activity .  Your medical history will help both you and your physician develop a plan that works for you.  Use these guidelines as a general guide and talk to your physician about a specific plan to keep you safe while you improve your health with exercise.

Sample Guidelines to Discuss with Your Doctor

  1. Include at least a five-minute warm-up and five-minute cool-down in every exercise session.
  2. Engage in moderate-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes on most, preferably all, days of the week.
  3. Monitor exercise intensity closely. Make sure to stay within your individual heart-rate zone.
  4. Be cautious about engaging in physical activity that is too difficult. If you plan to begin a vigorous program, discuss it thoroughly with your physician.
  5. Inform your physician if you have any abnormal signs or symptoms before, during or after exercise. These include chest pain, extreme fatigue, indigestion or heartburn, excessive breathlessness, ear or neck pain, upper respiratory tract infection, dizziness or racing heart and severe headache.
  6. If prescribed, always carry your nitroglycerin with you, especially during exercise.
  7. Never exercise to the point of chest pain. If you develop chest pain during exercise, call 911 immediately.
  8. Make sure the facility where you exercise is well-equipped in case of an emergency. Ask if the facility has an emergency response plan and an automated external defibrillator (AED), as well as staff trained on how to use it on the premises.
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