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Safe Exercise for Heart Disease Patients

If you have a loved one who's recently been diagnosed with heart disease or had heart surgery, the doctor probably told you that exercise is an important part of keeping the condition under control. But is it safe for him to keep exercising like he has been, or does your loved one need to make some changes? And what exercises are best?

Here are some things to discuss with the doctor:

  • Medication changes. New medications can greatly affect your response to exercise; your loved one's doctor can tell you if his normal exercise routine is still safe.
  • Heavy lifting. Make sure that lifting or pushing heavy objects and chores such as raking, shoveling, mowing, or scrubbing aren't off limits. Chores around the house can be tiring for some people; make sure your loved one only does what he's able to do without getting tired.
  • Safe exercises. Get the doctor's approval before you let the patient lift weights, use a weight machine, jog, or swim.

General workout tips for heart disease patients:

  • Be sure any exercise is paced and balanced with rest.
  • Avoid encouraging isometric exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.
  • Don't let the patient 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.
  • Make sure your loved one stays hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.
  • Extremely hot and cold showers or sauna baths should be avoided after exercise. These extreme temperatures increase the workload on your heart.
  • Have your loved one steer clear of exercise in hilly areas. If he must walk in steep areas, ask him to slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard. Have him monitor his heart rate closely.
  • If the patient's exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather), ease him back into his routine. He should start with a reduced level of activity and gradually increase it until he's back where he started.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD on March 07, 2010
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