Exercising with heart disease

Start slow and add a little more over time. Make it feel  as if when finished feel like you could have done more easily. Begin exercising at this intensity for several sessions before making large increases in your intensity or effort required to be physically active. . Remember the whole goal is to adapt, and by doing so the body is changing how it responds. In the early recovery stage  the exercise prescription is very light. Do you know What exercise prescription is best for you?

Since exercise should be part of your everyday routine in order to make it a lifelong habit  injury avoidance is important to be aware of overuse signs and symptoms, to rest those muscles when needed.  Occasionally cardiovascular disease patients develop Peripheral Artery Disease and symptoms can present similarly to overuse. Pain should signal the body to be aware that something is going on.  Take some time to evaluate that pain, what happens with it, does it always come on at a certain time or point of the exercise or activity? How long does it take to go away? Can it be avoided while being active by another means for instance switching from walking to biking?  Make sure you communicate these findings with your healthcare practitioner as they could be signals of other health conditions related to heart disease and it’s recovery.

Some exercise and activity is better than none, so start slowly. Even a warmup is better than no exercise session here is why  warming up before strenuous activity helps your heart.

Don’t expect results overnight, but do take small steps each day. Move that blood around, push it through the muscles. Make the muscles use the oxygen in the blood  more efficiently. Exercise helps the the heart recover and stay strong.

You might not notice any big changes—especially in your weight—for a few weeks or even months. It is still good for your heart health! It is not all about weight loss. Forget the scale for a while. In fact many who initially start to exercise following hospitalization are  Sedentary at the start and will gain a couple of pounds. It is their muscles getting pumped up, holding and utilizing more blood flow. Generally the focus on how you feel.

 When not to exercise is if you are presenting with Signs and symptoms of heart problems. Exercise should be avoided if  if you are presenting with congestive heart failure, or are presently sick. When returning to exercise following illness 

Symptoms to be alert for include these.

Depression and Heart Conditions

Depression is common in heart patients. Most studies show 2 out of 3 patients will experience depression. Does depression cause heart disease or does heart disease cause depression? Probably both. We all have ups and downs, however when one finds them overwhelming and debilitating it is time to get help. According to the National Institute for Mental Health the following are the symptoms of depression:

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

One of the best things a person who is suffering from depression can do is to get daily exercise. Yet it is one of the hardest things to do when depressed. I would encourage patients to at a minimum schedule themselves 10 minutes per day of exercise. I know it is a very short duration, but it is a starting point. We build from there.  If you are a significant other of someone you suspect is depressed, don’t nag them to exercise, rather help them to engage in it. Offer to go for a walk, or go to the gym together.

For many suffering from depression winter can be especially difficult. The holidays may trigger episodes, a change in healthy eating habits to the holiday party foods, a change in exercise habits due to weather changes, getting out and socializing less due to weather, loss of loved ones,  and seasonal effective disorder can all be a catalyst for symptoms to worsen. If you note this contact your healthcare practitioner, consider counseling, increasing exercise, getting sunlight every day, and/or medications. It is important because if depression isn’t treated often heart disease worsens.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy

 

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/what-is-depression.shtml

 

 

Heart disease patients who have anxiety have twice the risk of dying from any cause compared to those without anxiety, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Patients with both anxiety and depression have triple the risk of dying, researchers said.

Many studies have linked depression to an increased risk of death in heart disease patients. However, anxiety hasn’t received as much attention. Studies show that depression is about three times more common in heart attack patients. The American Heart Association recommends that heart patients be screened for depression and treated if necessary.

Depressed heart disease patients often also have anxiety, suggesting it may underlie the risk previously attributed solely to depression. It’s now time for anxiety to be considered as important as depression, and for it to be examined carefully.”

In the study, 934 heart disease patients, average age 62, completed a questionnaire measuring their level of anxiety and depression immediately before or after a cardiac catheterization procedure at Duke University Medical Center. Patients had anxiety if they scored 8 or higher on a scale composed of seven common characteristics of anxiety, with each item rated from 0 to 3 (range of possible scores: 0-21). Depression was measured using a similar scale composed of seven symptoms of depression.

Researchers, after accounting for age, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and other factors that affect death risk, found that 90 of the 934 patients experienced anxiety only, 65 experienced depression only and 99 suffered anxiety and depression. Among 133 patients who died during three years of follow-up, 55 had anxiety, depression or both. The majority of deaths (93 of 133) were heart-related.

Researchers measured anxiety and depression during cardiac catheterization because levels better reflected how patients normally handle stressful situations. Anxiety and depression each influence risk of death in unique ways. Anxiety, for example, increases activity of the sympathetic (adrenaline-producing) nervous system that controls blood pressure.

People who worry a lot are more likely to have difficulty sleeping and to develop high blood pressure. The link between depression and mortality is more related to behavioral risk factors. Depression results in lack of adherence to medical advice and treatments, along with behaviors like smoking and being sedentary.

Future studies should test strategies to manage anxiety alone and with depression in heart disease patients.

Anxiety reducing medications combined with stress management could improve outcome for patients with just anxiety, whereas patients with anxiety and depression may need a stronger intervention involving more frequent outpatient monitoring and incentives to improve adherence.

Slowly getting there, comments from our cardiac health innovators? http://bit.ly/100zip5

Favorite stretches for open heart surgery patients

If you just had your chest recently surgically opened, the last thing you want to think about is stretching, but after time it becomes very important. You may not physically remember the pain of surgery but your body does. It gradually rounds the shoulders forward, the head is carried slightly more forward, and these changes make the subtle curve in the low back gradually flatten. Many patients when they first attend cardiac rehabilitation complain of pain and spasm to their upper back and shoulders. When I worked in physical therapy I would have many patients present several years after open heart surgery with low back pain. Many had the characteristic posture I described above.

Here are a few suggestion to help you in the healing process.

Be very aware of your posture – if you are sore, think about what posture you are in. Are you seated with your shoulders slumped and head forward? If so adding a lumbar support to your chair will help to straighten your back posture. Another suggestion is to get up and move more frequently.

Stretches for open heart surgery recovery.

Neck –  Sternocleidomastoid stretch.

Sternocleidomastoideus.png

To Stretch the Neck’s Sternocleidomastoid muscle

1. Chin to chest

2. Keeping chin down bring ear to shoulder

3. Shift head so you are looking at your armpit.  Tuck your chin in to further the stretch.

4. Gently place hand on head to give additional stretch and be aware of shoulder, try not to let shoulder rise while stretching.

This stretch is also good to do while lying in bed, or sitting in chair and grasping chair

  • Repeat to opposite side.
  • Do not apply over pressure.
  • Do not experience any pain.

 These are other good stretches for the chest

A suggestion for upper back discomfort is to begin with gentle chest stretching and shoulder stretching. It is very important you avoid pain.  It is safer to wait until  6 weeks in recovery before initiating this.

  • Do not take any stretch to pain.
  • Do not bounce stretches.

There are three different postures to get the different muscle groups of the chest.

  • One leg is forward simply to maintain the curve of the low back.
  • Hold the stretch 10 to 15 seconds, repeat 1-2 times.
  • It is ok to do this stretch a few times per day.

 

Upper back stretching

Great for relieving pain in shoulder-blade region

The muscles act very similar to pulleys.  If one side shortens the other side lengthens. If the muscles of the chest are short the muscles of the upper back are stretched. Prolonged stretch leads to muscle spasm, and this makes many people feel like they have knots in their upper back. There is a great stretch for this.

Image

  • Reach down grasp opposite knee with hand (left hand grasp right knee).
  • Relax your head pull up gently, hold 10-15 seconds.
  • Repeat with opposite hand/knee.
  • Repeat one to two times.

Choices in the care of your heart

Heart disease is challenging and frightful. Sometimes decisions are made very quickly regarding managing the disease process. Heart disease is a chronic condition that rears its ugly head over and over for many. As a heart patient  your best off having a good knowledge of the disease process and the choices of interventions.  Methods of intervention include:

  • Angioplasty (balloon opening of artery)
  • Cutting balloons and roto ruters
  • Stent
  • Drug eluting (coated) stent
  • Open heart surgery – Bypass Surgery
  • Treat medically with medicine and lifestyle
  • Enhanced Eternal Counter pulsation therapy
  • Left Ventricular Assistive Devices
  • Heart Transplant

Many of these decisions are based on the amount of heart tissue that is involved. If there is a large region with insufficient blood flow caused by numerous blocked vessels you most likely will be recommended to have bypass surgery. The general rule is if three vessels are involved you will most likely require surgery. You do have choices though, as the main blockage can be intervened on through stents and the other vessels can be addressed at a later time. We call this staged stents. The  cardiologist do not  recommend placing stents to both the right and the left side of the heart during the same intervention. They will treat the culprit, and then come back later for the others.  The decision tree also takes into account what other issues (co morbidities) a patient has. If  a patient has end stage renal disease or their kidneys were severely affected by the heart problem then the physician my want to avoid treatments that place a heavy burden on the kidneys such as angioplasty or stents. They may opt to treat medically until the kidneys have recovered if they can.

A single vessel blocked will more likely be treated with a stent. However the location of blockage can be very challenging. If the blockage is  where the artery separates to another branch – called an anastamosis  these are very difficult to deal with because a stent would block the flow to the other artery. Sometimes they require surgery, new technology in stents is coming and these may be able to be stented in the future.  Some vessels are too torturous – meaning twisty and turny to allow a stent to be placed. Again surgery, treat medically  or EECP therapy would be considered.

Small vessels are less likely to be treated with stents and more likely to be treated with medications.  Medication includes nitro, long acting nitro, calcium channel blocker, ace inhibitors, beta blockers and occasionally EECP.

Intervention is determined by how viable the heart muscle is. If the heart muscle was severely damaged due to a heart attack  and now scarred over – or remodeled, further intervention to that region is not likely to be of any help.

EECP – it is enhanced external counterpulsation therapy. The therapy consists of cuffs wrapped around legs, calves and buttocks. When the heart finishes pushing the blood flow out, the cuffs sequentially inflate to push the blood back up the heart. By doing this the heart is somewhat engorged with blood and forms collateral vessels. The treatment consists of one hour treatments 5 days a week for 7-9 weeks.  Most patients find their frequency and intensity of angina is greatly diminished. Many patients hold the benefits for 2-5 years, but others will require more frequent return treatments to hold the gains. It is usually covered by insurance such as Medicare if the angina is considered functionally limited or disabling.  For some people with very serious heart damage this improves the pumping ability of the remainder of the heart muscle, as it becomes stronger due to increased blood flow from collateral arteries. The EECP alone will not maintain the benefits, you must still keep physically active through exercise to maintain the benefits.  The treatment is non invasive.

LVAD is a left ventricular assistive device.  These are used when the heart cannot meet the demands any longer to adequately circulate the blood. For many this is now considered a destination therapy. This means they will not be a candidate for a heart transplant but will forever rely on the mechanical pump to circulate their blood. These are becoming more frequently used, and the mortality rates are decreasing with these pumps. If your health care provider is contemplating this route for you, I would strongly suggest you contact support groups of patients who already have LVADS here is a Facebook link to such a support group.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/LVAD-Recipients/207915222572308

Heart transplants are necessary when the damage is such that the heart cannot meet the needs. Often the patient is repeatedly hospitalized in congestive heart failure. They are disabled due to the heart condition.

The take home is know the procedures, research the pro’s and con’s of each. Don’t walk in to the physician’s office and simply take the first suggestion. Question the efficacy, ask the probability of success and what are the limitations, what can you expect in the future. Be active in your healthcare. Most inpatient nurses will tell you they witness too many incidents where the health care provider tells the patient and family if you don’t do this you will die. Thus the patient feels compelled to have the intervention performed. You have choices.

Choices involve the above discussion, but also include risk factor modification every single day. Choose to exercise, choose to eat healthy, choose how to respond to stress, choose to take your medications,  choose to not smoke, choose to monitor blood sugar.

Bypass

Stent

Left Ventricular Assistive Device

 Enhanced External Counterpulsation Therapy

Building chest and back muscles after open heart surgery

Once you have your weight restrictions from bypass surgery lifted (and your physician’s permission)  it is time to build back the muscles you lost from surgery.

The muscles are weak from the limited lifting for the last 3 or more months. It is important to go slow and to balance the muscles. In previous posts I write about the importance of posture and stretching after open heart surgery to prevent or manage pain.  http://rehabilitateyourheart.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/stretching-your-upper-body-following-open-heart-surgery-12/

The muscles of the chest and back balance one another.

Muscles work like a pulley system, if one group is shortened the other is lengthened. By strengthening the chest muscles the opposing muscles of the back are lengthened. Therefore the back should be worked just as much as the chest to maintain a balance. A common issue is many only train their chest, neglecting the back and this sets the stage for shoulder, neck and back problems down the road. By strengthening both you create a balance to the muscles.

There are many ways one can work the muscles including free weights, dumbbells, resistive bands, or the bodies own resistance – such as push ups. . It is important to start out light. You may have had a 10-20 lb lifting restriction for some time. It is not graduated up but simply lifted.  Therefore don’t start with really heavy weights. Work your way up. Start with a few exercises, see how your body feels the next day. You shouldn’t experience days of pain from the first few workouts, you should be able to tell you worked the muscles but not be suffering.  Don’t overdo it!

Remember it is approximately one full year of healing following surgery.

The bone is knit together but to rebuild the strength, decrease the inflammation and allowing the nerves to heal it takes a full year.  Some precautions to note – if you feel any shifting, cracking or popping of the sternum stop. Try again in a month or two, or modify the movement to avoid the shifting. If you cannot move it without the shifting contact your surgeon.

Breathing with weight training is vital.

Exhale on exertion. This means when you are pushing the weight away from your body breath out. When you are returning the weight to your body breath in. It is extremely important to your heart’s health not to hold your breath.  Holding your breath increases the blood pressure, strains the heart, and for some people can make them light-headed or pass out. Not good when you have weights in your hands to pass out!  This breathing technique should be used with all of your strenuous physical activities or lifting, pushing, or carrying.

The following images of exercises address the key muscle groups lost from open heart surgery.

Start with a light weight – it may be 10 lbs in each hand or it might be 5 lbs, everyone is different but you will appreciate starting with light weights as we expect a little soreness initially. See what works for you. The initial goal is to do many repetitions, gradually build up the amount of weight over time. Try doing each exercise 10 times, if it is easy than next time add a little more weight. If it is difficult, try less weight next time. It is recommended you start with 10-15 repetitions of each exercise, and do it in 1-2 sets the first week or two. You can gradually add in more sets of the 10-15 repetitions. Don’t work the muscles every day, try for 2-3 times per week. The muscles need recovery time.

Chest muscles – note the elbows of the lady in the second picture, this is an example of good technique. Don’t let the elbows come lower than the shoulders as it puts a lot of stress on the sternum and shoulders, and you don’t want to be hurting the next day. Breathe out as you lift the weight up. Don’t hold your breathe!

Shoulder muscles – note only lift the weights to 90* lifting higher than this tends to irritate the shoulders. Be aware to use your muscles not the swinging of your body for momentum. Lift the weight to a slow count of 1 -2, then lower it even slower a slow count of 1-2-3-4. Remember breath out as you lift the weight up.

These are standing fly’s, the knees are bent to support the lower back’s natural curves and prevent injury.                                                                                                                          

Back exercises – standing row. This works the muscles between the shoulder blades.  When doing exercises bent over remember to come back up gradually, as many heart patients experience dizziness when bent over. Again remember to BREATHE!  If you don’t have weights there are resistive bands that can be used. They can be found at your physical therapy centers, medical supply stores or fitness stores. They come in a variety of strengths, remember start light. Make sure you control the band or weight and that it doesn’t control you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Weight machines are good. Here is an example of working both the chest and the back. I love lat pull downs and seated rows. Typically I will have patients work these for 1-2 weeks before I introduce the chest press, as the back is far more neglected than the chest muscles in our day-to-day use.  Below are ways of doing the upper back using resistive bands.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

I know some of you  are impatient about getting back to push ups. I generally start patients with push ups against a wall initially, gradually moving feet further back. When through the initial muscle soreness, have good breathing techniques then have them begin floor push ups.

Prevention measures to avoid blood clots

Common issues following hospitalization include blood clots. Patients often wonder why we force them to get out of bed and move. Prevention of blood clots in the legs and lungs is critical for recovery

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