Your Heart and Exercise

Alpine Cardiology seniors exercising in swimming pool




Your doctor will tell you what exercise is best for you that will help your heart and are safe for you. They will also advise you on things to watch for and what you should do if you experience heart symptoms.

Your Heart and Exercise

Alpine Cardiology senior athletes exercising on step platforms at gymGetting regular exercise is a major step toward good heart health. Physical activity can strengthen the heart muscle, manage blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is also an effective way of keeping your weight under control.

Exercise is important whether you have heart disease or want to prevent it. The activity doesn’t have to be hard. Any activity that raises your heart rate can help your heart. Do an activity at a level that is right for you and that you enjoy.

Moderate Level

If you choose moderate activity, aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Moderate activity would include brisk walking, brisk cycling, or dancing. Even daily chores that raise your heart can be included. You want your heart beating faster.

Vigorous Level

Alpine Cardiology senior cyclistIf you choose vigorous activity, aim for 25 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Experts recommend at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Vigorous activity would include jogging, fast cycling, or cross-country skiing. You breathe more rapidly and heart beats much faster with vigorous activity.

Any Movement is Good for your Heart

Any activity is better than none. If you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try a few 5 or 10-minute walks instead. Brief bouts of activity do offer benefit. Being active for short periods of time during the day add and can provide health benefits.

Sitting too much can have a negative impact on your health. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. Remember that your goal is to make regular physical activity a part of your heart healthy lifestyle.


The Best Exercises to Strengthen your Heart

Talk with your health care team about which exercises are best for you. Along with advice from your doctor you may consider working with a physical therapist or trainer. They can show you proper exercise strategies to reduce fatigue and the possibility of injury from over doing it. You may also want to talk to your doctor to see if you may be eligible for a formal cardiac rehabilitation program.

Different types of exercise are needed to provide complete fitness. Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health. Flexibility may not contribute directly to heart health; it serves an important role in providing a good foundation for participating in aerobic and strength building activities more effectively.

Aerobic Exercise

Alpine Cardiology Senior couple cross-country skiing.Aerobic exercise improves circulation, and this helps in lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Increasing your overall aerobic fitness will help with how well your heart pumps and delivers oxygen to your body. Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, if you already live with diabetes, it can help you control your blood glucose.

Aerobic Exercise includes walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, jumping rope, mowing the lawn. You can choose the level previously mentioned that is right for you. Regardless of whether you choose a slower or faster pace, the goal is to get your heart pumping.

Resistance/Strength Training

Alpine Cardiology Senior people with trainer using resistance band doing exercises at the gymResistance or strength training may improve your strength and help your muscles work together better. This can make daily activities easer and build muscle and burn fat. It may also help with flexibility and stability (balance).

Research show that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

You should try for at least 2 nonconsecutive days per week of resistance/strength training. You may choose to work with free weights (such as hand weights, dumbbells, or barbells), or on weight machines. Resistance band are effective way to build strength with many exercises able to perform in a sitting position. Body resistance exercises such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups can be added as well.

Stretching, Flexibility and Balance

Alpine Cardiology senior woman stretching at homeStretching before exercise is important to warm up your muscles and heart. This benefits musculoskeletal health which helps you stay flexible and free from joint pain. Stretching may also help with cramping and other muscular issues. Flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls as well.

Talk to your doctor to see if she recommends basic stretches you can do at home. You can also look for DVDs or YouTube videos to follow. Tai Chi and Yoga are great for your heart health and will help you strengthen you muscles and increase flexibility.

Other Benefits of Regular Exercise

Being active does more than just keep your heart healthy. It keeps your body and mind health too.

Alpine Cardiology Senior woman exercising with a hula hoopThe added benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Mental well-being
  •  Stress relief
  • Increased bone strengths (if you are doing weight bearing exercises)
  • Control blood sugar
  • Lose or control you weight
  • Increase energy
  • Help you sleep better

Alpine Cardiology Senior drinking water after exercisingAdditional Recommendations

  • Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise or physical activity.
  • Start slowly and at a level you are comfortable with.
  • If you feel tired or have any heart symptoms, stop, and rest.
  • Wear comfortable clothing for the activity you are doing.
  • During warmer weather exercise in the morning or evening when exercising outside.
  • In colder weather cover your nose and mouth when exercising outside
  • If you prefer inside, go to a gym, and use the treadmills or walk inside a mall.
  • Drink plenty of water.

It is Never too Late to Start

Alpine Cardiology smiling senior sportsman exercising with dumbbell at gymIt is never too late to make physical activity part of your life. If you are healthy, it can help you keep your heart as healthy as possible. If you have had a heart attack or stroke, being active is very important to help prevent another one.

Regular activity might also help your heart if you do have a heart attack. It may increase the number of smaller blood vessels that connect different coronary arteries. These are called collateral blood vessels. If one of the major coronary arteries is suddenly blocked, these collateral blood vessels serve as an alternate route to supply blood to the portion of the heart muscle that is threatened by a heart attack. This gives you time to seek medical attention and increases your chance of surviving.

Talk to your Doctor

Tell your doctor if you are having trouble making activity part of your daily life. She may refer you to someone who specializes in helping people make lifestyle changes. If you have been exercising and find that you are not able to as much as you used to let your health care team know.

Studies indicate that pairing a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way not only to prevent heart disease, but to reverse some risk factors. Talk to your doctor to about activities and diet that will increase your heart health.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack


If you think you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack – DO NOT WAIT, CALL 911!

Symptoms may be obvious or more subtle, either way take them seriously and get medical care.

We tend to believe that a heart attack is a dramatic, chest-clutching event but heart attacks can begin with more subtle symptoms. People have described it as a “discomfort” but not painful.

Downplaying your symptoms or thinking it is just indigestion or anxiety can be deadly. Do not “tough it out” for more than five minutes. Call 911 immediately.

What is a Heart Attack?

A blockage most often is a build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. The buildup can block the flow of blood to the heart and a heart attack can occur.

Sometimes, a plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. The interrupted flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.

Typical Heart Attack Symptoms

Alpine Cardiology Senior man having heart attack wife calling 911If you experience any of these heart attack warning signs do not wait to get help. Some heart attacks may be sudden and intense. But most will start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Call 911 if you experience any of these symptoms:

Chest Discomfort or pain

A tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest. This may come and go.

Upper body pain

A pain or discomfort that may spread beyond your chest. Areas include shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth, or jaw. You may have these symptoms WITHOUT any chest discomfort.

Stomach pain

Often mistaken for heartburn, the pain may extend down towards your abdominal area.

Shortness of breath

You may try to take in deep breaths or pant. This often occurs without any chest discomfort or before chest discomfort occurs.

Alpine Cardiology - Couple walking in park


Sometimes you may think you are having a panic attack or feel a sense of doom for no apparent reason.


You may feel dizzy or feel like you may pass out.


Suddenly breaking out in a sweat with cold clammy skin.

Nausea and vomiting

Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting may occur.

Heart Palpitations

You may become very aware that your heart is beat or feel as if your heart is skipping beats.

Women may have different symptoms

Alpine Cardiology - Cardiologist listening to woman's heartThe most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms. Particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back pain, or jaw pain. May women have heart attack symptoms without chest pain.

  • Pain in the neck, back, shoulders or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain or “heartburn”
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue, possibly for days

Older Adults and People with diabetes

Older adults and people with diabetes may have no or very mild symptoms of a heart attack. Never dismiss any heart attack symptom, even if they don’t seem serious. Seek immediate medical care.

Symptoms May Vary

Heart attacks do not present with the same symptoms or severity of symptoms. Some have mild pain while others have more severe pain. Some have no symptoms at all, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. The signs and symptoms you have, the greater the chance you are having a heart attack.

Many people may have warning signs and symptoms hours, days, or weeks in advance. A heart attack can also strike suddenly. The earliest warning may be a recurrent chest pain or pressure that occurs with activity and is relieved by rest. This may be caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

When to Seek Medical Care

Alpine Cardiology Calling 911 and checking for pulseImmediately! Do not wait too long because you don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms.

Call 911

If you think you are having a heart attack, don’t wait. Immediately dial 911 (or your local emergency number). If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there are no other options.

Take nitroglycerin

ONLY if it is prescribed to you by your doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.

Take an aspirin

ONLY if recommended by your doctor or emergency medical personnel. Taking an aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting. Aspirin can interact with other medications, so important to only take if instructed to do so. Do NOT delay calling 911 to take an aspirin, call for help first.

What to do for Someone having a Heart Attack

First, call 911 or emergency medical help. After calling for help, check to see if they are breathing or have a pulse. If a person isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, then you should begin CPR

It is recommended performing only chest compressions if you haven’t been trained in CPR. If you have been trained in CPR you can go on to opening the airway and rescue breathing.

Minutes Matter – Fast Action Can Save Lives

Alpine Cardiology EMS caring for heart attack patientCalling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.

An emergency medical services team will begin treatment when they arrive. This means that treatment could begin up to an hour sooner than arriving by car to the hospital. Plus, patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital.

Talk to your Health Care Team

If you would like more information on the warning signs of a heart attack and your risks talk to your health care provider. Dr. Bobish and her team want you to be heart healthy, talk to them. They know your health history and are one of your best resources to understand your risks and way to prevent a heart attack.

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