If you’ve never thought about the condition of your heart, now is the time to give it some attention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease. Even though you can’t change things like your genetics, family history or age, you can still make lifestyle changes to impact your health.
Exercising is a major step toward a healthy heart because it’s one of the most effective ways to strengthen the heart muscle, maintain a healthy weight and ward off artery damage from high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. “Regular exercise helps by reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, improving glucose metabolism and reducing body weight,” says Dr Sony Manuel Mathew, Specialist Interventional Cardiologist, Amina Hospital.
“Good exercises for heart health include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling. Healthy adults should perform a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise over five days or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week over three days.”
Regular exercise helps by reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, improving glucose metabolism and reducing body weight.
However, those with heart problems should consult their doctor before starting an exercise programme. “Patients with chronic coronary syndromes should undergo exercise tolerance test [ETT]; if normal, they can go for competitive sports,” says Dr Mathew. “Individuals with inducible ischemia despite adequate treatment, should undergo coronary angiography; undergo revascularisation if needed, and gradually return to sports, three to six months after normal ETT. When ischemia cannot be treated despite adequate therapy, they should be restricted from competitive sports.”
High intensity exercises
You can read many studies about exercise and come up with contradictions left and right. But one thing they all seem to agree on is that 2.5 hours of exercise a week is good for the heart. And one of the best options is a HIIT workout (high intensity interval training).
During a HIIT workout, you are exercising in order to boost your heart rate to a faster rate, then dropping it back down before bringing it back up again. This up and down interval pattern with increased and decreased intensities provides faster results in shorter workouts than, say, going for a long run. But is high intensity training good for your heart?
“If you are a professional athlete, then it will not be an issue,” says Dr Sarkis Baghdasarian, Specialist Cardiologist, Amina Hospital. “It is not recommended for non-professional athletes to do a highly intensive training from the get go, since it can lead to cardiac complications especially if they have underlying cardiac arrhythmias. I recommend following a progressive training routine while closely monitoring your heart rate. If you have any doubts regarding your cardiac health, it would be a good idea to visit your cardiologist and do a cardiac exercise test, before continuing with your training routine.”
Follow a progressive training routine while closely monitoring your heart rate. If you have any doubts regarding your cardiac health, it would be a good idea to visit your cardiologist and do a cardiac exercise test, before continuing with your training routine.
Don’t worry if you can’t reach 150 minutes per week just yet. Even if you’ve been sedentary for years, now is the time you can begin to make healthy changes in your life. Set a reachable goal for today. You can work up toward the recommended amount by increasing your time as you get stronger. Don’t let all-or-nothing thinking keep you from doing what you can every day.
5 best exercises for heart health
Experts say one of the best types of exercises to increase your cardiovascular fitness is circuit training. When you work out at a very high intensity the blood starts to pump a lot harder and that challenges the elasticity of the arterial wall. Opting for minimal rest periods, and alternating between upper and lower body exercises is the ideal way to get maximum results.
Weight training is critical for people with heart disease. In addition to building muscle mass, which will help you burn fat, weight training is also good for bone health and your heart. When it comes to deciding what type of weight training to do, using your own body weight can be extremely effective. For example, try to do push-ups, pull ups, etc.
A steady run is certainly an excellent way to stay in shape, but running intervals will really push your cardiovascular fitness to the next level. Whether it’s sprints or hills, all you need is 10 seconds at a time. Work hard enough to get out of breath and then take whatever minimal rest period you need to recover.
You don’t have to be doing a high level of activity to increase your heart health. Pushing your heart rate up and down quickly can be hazardous to those who are out of shape. At first glance, yoga may not seem like an obvious heart health activity, but it is. Active styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Bikram can offer cardiovascular benefits, as your heart rate is elevated throughout the class.
Regular cycling can substantially reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, according to a large study done by the British Medical Association. The findings revealed that cycling 32 kilometres a week reduced the potential to develop heart disease by a whopping 50 per cent. Cycling uses large muscle groups in the legs to elevate your heart rate.