Getting to the Heart of the Matter

healthy heart

Heart health and working out go hand in hand.  But while some workout to keep their heart healthy; others may be concerned about the health of their heart during workouts.

Even for those who have heart disease, staying active is important. This is because exercise keeps your heart muscle strong.

It’s important to know your limits, especially if you have a pre-existing heart problem. WAFFL’s resident doctor, Dr. Anthony Egboh, points out that while you may have received a specific exercise regime from your physicians, “loading too much on the heart increases the risk of heart attack on weak hearts.”

Our doctor also indicates those with Hypertension, Diabetes, who are overweight with unhealthy lifestyles, smokers and those who have a strong family history of cardiac problems need to be aware that they are at risk.

If you experience any of the following symptoms during a workout, WAFFL recommends stopping immediately.  Lying down is important to reduce the stress on your heart.

Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Left/central chest pain. This can radiate down the left arm, through the back and up the neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

If you think you may be at risk or if you are at risk WebMD recommends asking your doctor at least the following questions before your workout:

  • How much exercise can I do each day?
  • How often can I exercise each week?
  • What types of activities should I try, and what should I avoid?
  • Should I time when I take my medications around my exercise schedule?
  • Should I take my pulse while I exercise? What pulse rate should I aim for?
  • Are there any warning signs I should watch out for?

During Your Workout

Stick to aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, bicycle or a rowing machine. The recommends at least 150 minutes of this a week.  But start slow with 5 to 10 minutes a day gradually increasing both duration and intensity of activity as your fitness begins to improve.

For strength training again, know your limits.  WebMD suggests sticking to lighter weights as “heavy weights may raise your blood pressure short term”. Try light hand weights, weight machines, resistance bands or your own body weight.

As with all new workouts WAFFL again emphasises starting slow. Let your body tell you when it’s time to increase speed or weight.

After your workouts keep loving your heart with a healthy diet.  You may be starving right after the gym, but try to stick to filling whole foods. Dark leafy greens and lean proteins with a plant-sourced fat, like avocado, thrown in the mix is a great choice.  And always avoid heart-clogging trans fats and saturated fats.

While working out may seem a scary if you’re at risk for heart disease or a heart attack, talking to your doctor and modifying your exercise can help put you on the road to a healthy heart that works for you and not against you.

Megan Russell

by Megan Russell, Freelance Writer

Megan Russel is a freelance writer and editor based in Austin Texas. Her interests include people, health and fitness, art, books and science. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Kansas.

She writes for WAFFL as well as number of online and print publications. Megan can be contacted on her website