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High Pre-Heart Attack Fitness Improves Prognosis

posted Feb 6, 2016, 5:30 PM by Walk Strong Calgary
Celebrating Heart Month

We know that regular aerobic exercise (such as my favorite... brisk walking) helps reduce risk of heart disease, but did you know that it can also increase your chances of survival should you experience a heart attack?

Like all muscles in the body, the heart requires a constant supply of oxygen, which is provided by oxygenated blood delivered via the coronary arteries. Should one of these arteries become clogged, a portion of the heart is starved of oxygen, a condition called 'cardiac ischemia.' If this condition persists, the tissue dies, resulting in a 'myocardial infarction' (literally: 'death of heart muscle') - commonly known as a heart attack.

If you're getting the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise weekly, there's still no guarantee that you won't have a heart attack. You're certainly reducing your risk, though, and according to a recent study, if you do have one, having a stronger heart prior to the attack will help protect you afterward. Dr. Chip Lavie, Director of the Exercise Laboratories at the Ochsner Clinical School in New Orleans, states that "Following a heart attack, having a higher level of fitness improves prognosis."

In a recent study, researchers from the Henry Ford Health System and the Johns Hopkins Hospital analyzed data from a study of over 2000 adults and reported that "something about being fitter prior to the heart attack helped protect people when measured one month, three months, and one year after it happened." Another reason to take steps now toward a stronger, more efficient heart!
If you've been diagnosed with heart disease or have high risk, shying away from exercise may be the last thing you want to do - it's actually very important to stay active. Consult with your doctor about beginning an exercise program suited to your specific needs - you'll be amazed at how far even a little exercise can go. According to Dr. Gordon Blackburn, program director of cardiac rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic, "There's a dose response to exercise. The more you stay with the exercise, the more you gain." Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine for the clinic adds that heart patients "should be more worried about the effects of not exercising on their heart than exercising."

The general recommendation as mentioned above is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day most (if not all) days of the week can reduce risk and strengthen your most important muscle - the heart. Walking is an easy, inexpensive way to get started!

Happy Heart Month!

Nancy Ehle is a Certified Walk Leader and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She holds several other industry certifications and specialties including Sports Nutrition, Health Coach, and Pilates Instructor. Her passion for helping people achieve their wellness goals is infectious! Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: facebook.com/WalkStrongCalgary twitter.com/NEhle99