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Posts Tagged ‘Exercise’

My doctor calls it “a flare up”.  I call it a nightmare.  I’ve spent the last two weeks wondering whether or not I should go to the emergency room.

I’ve learned to deal with the usual symptoms; pressure in the chest, extreme fatigue and the stomachache.  That’s everyday stuff – the stuff I wake up to.  It’s when the unusual symptoms begin that I get a little nervous; things like intense dizzy spells and shoulder pain.

So I wait.  I figure if it doesn’t go away in a day or two, I’ll call my doctor.  Two days pass and I still feel ‘schmoopy’ (my husbands loving description of what I look like on the outside when my heart gives me grief).  Here is where my head was this week:  “Is this it? Am I finally having a heart attack?  Will I spend the evening in the ER?  Maybe they’ll have to do a 12 lead EKG…did I shave my legs today?”

The symptoms remain the same, however, because of the overwhelming worry, I wonder what’s worse — having heart disease or the fear of dying from heart disease.

A Never Ending Cycle

It’s a unique situation to be in, one in which it’s best to keep things in perspective.  Those of us in this position know when the symptoms are manageable and when something just isn’t right.  While the management of a chronic illness carries enough stress in and of itself, it’s not as bad as the panic caused by the relapses. 

Don’t Panic

Apparently this heart disease isn’t going away so perhaps what I need to do now is focus on getting the emotional aspect of it in check.  The unknown is a scary thing.  However, worrying about it won’t change it, right?  Instead, I’ll focus on the things I can control; like medication and eating habits and exercise.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better go shave my legs.

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“Exercise?  Yeah, I know I should, but where do I begin?”

This question takes on a whole new meaning when asked by someone with a heart condition.  Instead of deciding which gym to join or which video to purchase, those of us in this distinguished group have bigger things to consider.  For instance, if my heart rate goes above a certain number, am I gonna die?!!?  It’s these types of questions that make your exercise choices very personal and specific.

I’ve heard it from my doctor; no doubt you have too.  ‘Exercise is an important part of keeping your condition under control’.  That’s all good and fine, but where do I begin?

Know Your Limits

The truth is, changes will need to be made to your past exercise routine.  As an example, I used to be able to ride my bike for miles and never break a sweat.  Now, just looking at my bike gets me winded.

Of course, there are many facets to heart disease.  No two conditions are alike and only your doctor is in the best position to offer specific recommendations.  That being said, here are some things to discuss with your doctor:

– Medication:  New medications can greatly affect your body’s response to exercise.  Before continuing with your current routine,    check to see that it is still safe.

– Heavy Lifting:  Check to see if lifting or pushing heavy objects (i.e. chores such as raking, shoveling, mowing, scrubbing) are ok.   Even chores we may have had no trouble with in the past now leave us tired.  Do only what you are able to do.

– Safe Exercises:  As for the old standards (lifting weights, use of a weight machine, jog, swim, etc.) ask first then do.

General Workout Tips for Heart Disease Patients

The good folks at WebMD have put together a fantastic list of do’s and don’ts that should be discussed with your doctor.

1.)  Be sure any exercise is paced and balanced with rest.

2.)  Avoid isometric exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.  Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.

3.)  Don’t exercise outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid.  High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly; extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain.  Better choices are indoor activities such as mall walking.  (Plus you can shop; that’s exercise, right??)

4.)  Stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.

5.)  Extremely hot and cold showers or sauna baths should be avoided after exercise.  These extreme temperatures increase the workload on your heart.

6.)  Steer clear of exercise in hilly areas.  If you must walk in steep areas, slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard.  Monitor your heart rate closely.

7.)  If your exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather), ease back into the routine.  Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you’re back where you started.

While dropping a quick 40 pounds may not be possible, focusing on long-term goals meant to increase your strength and stamina will keep you encouraged.  Find what works best for you and stick with it.  You’ll be glad you did.

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