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.

Take a walk on National Walking Day

What is National Walking Day?
The American Heart Association has named the first Wednesday of each April, National Walking Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of physical activity.

Invite your family, friends and coworkers to walk with you towards a healthier life!

Why start walking? It’s easy, it works and it pays!

  • Heart disease is this country’s number one killer but by exercising for as little as 30 minutes each day you can reduce your risk.
  • Studies show that for every hour of walking, life expectancy may increase by two hours.
  • Walking is the single most effective form of exercise to achieve heart health

Check out the American Heart Association’s new Walking Paths app to create, find and track walking paths near you! Available for the Android, iPhone and iPad.

For more information visit www.startwalkingnow.org

Get moving today!

Making Trails for Exercise

Exercise is all about making trails

Recently I encountered a patient who I had worked with 18 years ago, he was back for his second heart procedure. He was very excited to see me to discuss how my advice made such a difference. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what advice I gave him nearly twenty years ago. He proceeded to inform me I told him to go walk the trails in the woods. Here he was looking fit, strong, and healthy. He was here for a quick tune up as heart disease is progressive, tune ups are required. So we set about reviewing his risk factor profile, and he looked good. He had been walking the trails in the woods nearly every day!

This gets me to thinking about making trails.  What kind of trails do you make? Maybe you think you don’t make any trails because you walk a treadmill or ride a bike. Here is how my friend Nate Burns and staff make trails in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs.  Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Walks Trails  Every year they do a different theme walk, and map out interesting stops along the way. You could add up your miles and consider where your travels have taken you, or you could work towards a goal of a certain destination.

My favorite trails are  hiking, biking, cross country skiing, beach trails and are accessible in some form year round. A goal one year was to get a guide of all the hikes at the nearby National Lakeshore Park Sleeping Bear Dunes and walk each one, now that is a yearly goal. This can also be done with your local land conservancy, or your conservation district, your local parkland.

How many trails can you find in your community? Are you up to the challenge?


Cardiac Surgery Patients: Think Posture!

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.

Pain in the shoulder blade region?

If so begin with gentle chest stretching and shoulder stretching. It is very important you avoid pain. I usually wait until my patients are approximately 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.

   These are other good stretches for the chest

Upper back stretching

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.


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.

Use a lumbar support in your favorite chair, while driving, or sitting for a prolonged time. You can either purchase one at your local medical supply/pharmacy, or you can simply roll up a small towel and put it in the small of your low back.