Exercising with a Heart Condition

Like many other conditions, the risk of developing heart disease increases with age. Heart conditions can limit a person’s exercise tolerance, but it’s important to recognise that exercise can be of benefit if it’s performed in the correct manner. Common heart conditions can include coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and heart failure.

Coronary artery disease is the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries which can lead to blockages and ultimately restrict the blood flow to the heart. Restricting blood flow to the heart can increase the risk of blood clots, myocardial infarction, hypertension and stroke. Maintaining a healthy diet plays a big role in minimising the build-up of plaque, so it is important to limit the intake of high fat, high salt and high sugar foods.

Myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack, is the death of heart muscle cells due to prolonged ischemia (lack of oxygen). Physical exertion, stress and anger are common triggers of a heart attack and symptoms include chest/stomach soreness, sweating and anxiety.

Heart failure is basically the heart’s inability to pump blood at a rate sufficient to match the requirements of the body’s muscles and organs. The hearts ability to pump blood effectively can be reduced through stiffening of the chamber walls (atherosclerosis), as well as other damaging factors such as alcohol abuse and long standing hypertension.

Although these heart conditions have varying signs and symptoms, they can all be managed through similar rehabilitation exercise techniques. It is always best to seek medical clearance before exercising and initially exercise should be performed at a reduced intensity and frequency. Regular cardiovascular and resistance exercise will have positive benefits on heart function through improving cardiac output, maintaining flexibility through arteries and vessels and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. When exercising with a heart condition it is also important to listen to your body and not over exert yourself if symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, abnormal sweating and anxiety begin to arise.

As we get older, it’s important that we undertake exercise carefully and under appropriate instruction. At Pro Health Care, our Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists run a range of exercise classes in small groups to ensure appropriate attention is given to reach certain goals whilst respecting limitations. These classes include:

  • Strength For Life Classes (for people aged over 50 with a view of preventing heart disease, osteoporosis and other chronic ailments)
  • Diabetes Exercise Classes (specifically for Diabetic and Cardiac patients)
  • Pilates Classes (for maintaining and improving optimal spinal strength)
  • Falls and Balance Classes (for people that suffer vertigo or poor balance with a history of falls and lack of confidence)

Please enquire at reception for further information about any of our classes.

Andrew Bradley, Exercise Physiologist