Traditional Heart Disease Prevention
Regular exercise can lengthen life and reduce the chances of cardiovascular and other diseases. It is riskier for most people to be sedentary than to exercise. Small changes in physical activity, like walking more to do errands, can benefit one’s health.
Studies have proven that exercise can lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and reduce the chances for heart attacks and many other cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that men and women of all ages get 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 or more days a week.
There are four main types of physical activity:
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength exercise
- Flexibility and balance exercise
- Lifestyle exercise
All types of exercise have benefits. Besides benefiting the heart and vascular health, exercise can improve mood, reduce stress, lower the risk of falls, increase bone strength, and ease arthritis pain.
What Conditions Will Exercise Help?
Exercise will lower the risk for many cardiovascular diseases, including:
- Angina pectoris
- Aortoiliac occlusive disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Diabetic vascular disease
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary embolism
Exercise may also reduce the risk for certain types of cancer such as colon and breast cancer.
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the CDC recommend that the following groups of people talk to their physician before they start exercising:
- Adults with chronic disease such as heart disease, obesity, or diabetes
- Adults at high risk for heart disease
- Men over age 40 and women over age 50 who are inactive or plan to significantly increase their activity.
The physician may also conduct tests for heart conditions in overweight or obese patients or those with a history of cardiovascular disease.
Who is Eligible?
Most people are eligible to begin an exercise program.
In general, people with the following diseases or conditions should check with their physician before beginning an exercise program:
- Chronic disease
- Overweight or obesity
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Aortic dissection
- Aortic stenosis
What to Expect
Physicians recommend the patient gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise. The physician can help determine an appropriate level to begin. Patients should always warm up before and cool down after exercising.
Types of moderate aerobic exercise include:
- Walking briskly
- Using an elliptical trainer
- Golf (without a cart)
- Doubles tennis
Most patients will be advised to work toward a goal of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day, 5 or more days a week.
Specific strength exercises include:
- Biceps curl
- Triceps extension
- Arm raise
- Abdominal crunches
- Knee extension
- Hip extension
Many physicians recommend a goal of 15 to 20 minutes of strength exercises twice a week.
Flexibility and Balance Exercise
Types of stretches include hamstring stretches, quadriceps stretches, and calf stretches. Patients should stretch after aerobic or strength exercise. Balance exercises can be taught as part of a tai chi or yoga class.
Examples of aerobic lifestyle exercise include:
- Yard work
- Walking to do errands or to take public transportation
How Soon Will it Make a Difference?
Exercise can have immediate positive effects on mood and insulin sensitivity. Other benefits take weeks to months to occur, such as fitness, weight loss, or recovery from disease or condition.
Patients who already take medications for cardiovascular disease should not stop using them once they start exercising or adding any other lifestyle changes. Patients should always discuss their drug treatment with their physician.