Your Strength Is Your Independence As You Age

Think about how hard activities can  become as you lose muscle. Activities such as getting up and out of a chair without using your arm strength, getting off the floor, walking up and down stairs while carrying objects, carrying in groceries from the store, maintenance of your home, lifting or holding a grandchild. These are concerns patients I have worked with bring to me. Things they would like to do but don’t have the strength to handle. 

My answer is building muscle, which we can do at any age. I have had people with heart disease in their 90’s working with weight machines. I start most with dumbbells or soup cans and build them up to exercises using their own body for resistance, then if able get them to the weight machines. The results are not always noticeable in the physique, but rather in the abilities to do perform activities of daily living. As we age we develop many orthopedic – bone and joint issues which limit ability to do traditional strengthening exercises – such as weight machines. Don’t let that stop you from performing strengthening exercises. There are many ways to work around the barriers. Find an ACSM certified exercise specialist in your community to assist you, or a physical therapist. Work these exercises into a daily routine, not just a quick fix for a particular issue. Stick with these exercises, if you have to stop, so be it but build them back into your routine as soon as possible. Your body will thank you!

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Yoga an inspiring video and story

My current free version of  WordPress does not allow me to post a video therefore I would encourage anyone who thinks they cannot possibly do yoga due to their physical limitations to view this video. Simply cut and paste the link below in  your browser. It brought me to tears to see the improvement in this man. I have witness many similar transformations while working in cardiac rehabilitation, but never one as powerful as this. Yoga is an activity my entire family enjoys. I love watching my teens work together through a yoga DVD. They key is to never give up, no matter how long your condition has lasted.

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Yoga is a form of exercise that allows you to build strength, flexibility and develop specific breathing patterns that are beneficial with activity. For heart patients it is essential that you start lightbreath easy and only take the pose to where you are comfortable. Avoid straining the muscles. If you had open heart surgery with a standard sternal incision you will want to wait 10-12 weeks until you sternum is well knit together. Avoid any postures that cause a click or shift in the sternum. 

Yoga poses for heart health

There are several poses that you can use in order to increase the health of your heart, and these poses are designed to help your blood to circulate properly and strengthen the heart muscle. The warrior pose and the triangle pose are designed to promote cardiovascular exercise, and prompt you to breathe strategically and adequately. This helps you to increase your stamina, which gives you more energy to complete your daily activities and allow your heart to pump blood through the body quicker. This will help the body to replenish itself quicker, and can even help you to sleep better. The tree pose, the mountain pose, and the lotus pose not only work to strengthen the heart, but can be used to increase flexibility, which can prevent muscle cramping in the future.In addition to poses like the mountain pose and the tree pose to help manage and prevent heart disease, doctors have also recommended a healthy diet. Yoga can relieve stress and promote flexibility. The actual improvement of the heart has been proven by many doctors, like Satish Sivasankaran. They have done a study of the benefits of yoga on the heart, and have found that many individuals who practice yoga on a regular basis have had regulated heart beat and circulation. Individuals who may have suffered heart attacks and strokes were able to recover faster by participating in yoga.
 

How Does Yoga Help In Combating This Disease?

A study, published in Journal of The Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), establishes the reversibility of heart disease through yoga. Study was on angiographic ally proven CAD patients, of whom 71 formed the study group and 42 the control group. And the results proved that the serum total cholesterol levels had reduced by 23.3%, disease had regressed in 43.7% and progression was arrested in another 46.5% of the patients. Some marked improvements were noticed in anxiety levels of patients. Controlled yoga combining calming and stimulating measures resulted in reduced serum cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels.

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.

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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.