Can you exercise safely if you have heart disease? This study will answer that for you
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 10, 2023
Exercising is the key to maintaining good physical health, but its benefits extend far beyond just that. Regular exercise also enhances mood, reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and contributes to overall mental well-being. It’s no wonder exercise is often referred to as a magical fix for both physical and mental health.
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However, a burning question remains: is exercise safe for individuals with heart diseases? Thankfully, a study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), published in the esteemed journal European Heart Journal, provides some answers.
Exercise and Heart Disease: The Link Revealed
According to the study, physical activity is beneficial for everyone living with heart disease, and the chances of exercise triggering a cardiac arrest or heart attack are incredibly low. Professor Sanjay Sharma, Chairperson of the guidelines Task Force and professor of sports cardiology and inherited cardiac diseases at St George’s, University of London, UK, assures us that the risk of exercise-induced cardiac events is minimal. However, he advises individuals who are entirely inactive or have advanced heart disease to consult with their doctors before engaging in sports.
With the rising prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, promoting physical activity has become more important than ever. Professor Antonio Pelliccia, Chairperson of the guidelines Task Force and chief of cardiology at the Institute of Sports Medicine and Science in Rome, Italy, emphasizes that regular exercise not only prevents heart disease but also decreases premature death among those already diagnosed with heart disease.
The Right Amount of Exercise
So, how much exercise is enough? The study recommends that healthy adults of all ages, as well as those with heart disease, engage in exercise on most days, accumulating at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Moderate intensity means increasing your heart and breathing rate while still being able to hold a conversation.
For individuals who are obese, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes, the study suggests a combination of strength-building exercises, such as lifting light weights at least three times a week, and moderate or vigorous aerobic exercises like cycling, running, or swimming.
Tailoring Exercise for Different Heart Conditions
Coronary artery disease is the most prevalent type of heart disease, arising from the accumulation of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. Professor Pelliccia assures us that most people with coronary artery disease can engage in both competitive and amateur sports.
However, for individuals with long-standing coronary artery disease who desire to start exercising, it is crucial to consult with a doctor first. The aim is to personalize the intensity of activity based on individual risk factors to minimize the chances of an acute event, such as a heart attack.
Furthermore, the study recommends regular, moderate physical activity to prevent atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. Individuals with atrial fibrillation who are taking anticoagulants to prevent stroke should avoid contact sports due to the risk of bleeding.
People with pacemakers need not be discouraged from participating in sports (except for collision sports) because of their devices. However, they should consider their underlying condition when selecting specific activities.
When to Seek Help
Professor Pelliccia advises that if you experience chest pain for more than 15 minutes, it is essential to call an ambulance immediately. Additionally, if you notice palpitations, unusual shortness of breath, or chest discomfort during exercise, it is advisable to scale back your activity and schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional.
In conclusion, physical activity is beneficial for everyone with heart disease, and even small amounts can make a significant difference. These guidelines aim to assist patients and their healthcare professionals in selecting the most suitable and enjoyable activities. So, lace up those sneakers, get moving, and let exercise work its magic on your heart and overall well-being!