How much should you exercise after you’ve had a heart attack? We asked a cardiologist
By NCVC Staff | Published on Sep 26, 2023
Cardiovascular ailments, including heart attacks, continue to cause significant suffering worldwide. These conditions stem from the build-up of fatty deposits that obstruct blood flow to the heart. Symptoms range from chest discomfort and irregular heartbeats to cold sweats, weakness, and even death. In light of this, it is crucial to explore the role of exercise in the recovery process. We spoke with Dr. Vishal Rastogi, an expert in Interventional Cardiology, to shed light on the matter.
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Exercise as a Vital Component of Recovery
For individuals recuperating from a heart attack, exercising is a pivotal aspect of the recovery process. Dr. Rastogi emphasizes that exercise plays a crucial role due to the following reasons:
Modifying Risk Factors: After a heart attack, it is imperative to modify risk factors associated with heart ailments. Regular exercise aids in reducing blood pressure, managing weight, combating obesity, and controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Dr. Rastogi stresses that individuals who exercise daily significantly enhance their cardiac health.
Strengthening the Heart: A heart attack weakens the heart, leading to shortness of breath and restlessness during even the most mundane activities. Therefore, gradually training the heart muscles through regular exercise is essential to restore day-to-day functionality.
Finding the Right Balance
When it comes to exercise after a heart attack, Dr. Rastogi advises caution regarding the amount and intensity of physical activity. It is crucial to consider individual fitness levels and the distinct damage caused to each person’s heart. Analyzing symptoms during the recovery stage and consulting the treating doctor regarding permissible exercise levels is paramount.
As a general guideline, Dr. Rastogi suggests starting with a 10-minute walk and gradually increasing the duration to 45 minutes per day over time. Walking should be the primary exercise target, aiming for 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week. In addition, light jogging, swimming, and outdoor sports like badminton and tennis can be considered, as long as the intensity is gradually built up and excessive exertion is avoided.
Supervised Exercise Programs for Specific Cases
In cases where the heart is severely weak and damaged, or when prolonged hospitalization has occurred, individuals may experience breathlessness even during minimal physical activity. For such cases, Dr. Rastogi recommends a supervised exercise program. This program is overseen by a cardiac rehab specialist or physiotherapist who monitors heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure while assisting in gradual strength-building.
Dr. Rastogi underscores that exercise is crucial for every individual who has suffered a heart attack. However, the level and intensity of exercise may vary for each person and should be gradually increased over time.
In conclusion, exercise is a vital component of recovery after a heart attack. Adhering to the guidelines set by medical professionals and gradually increasing exercise intensity can significantly contribute to improving cardiac health and overall well-being.