There are so many things to worry about these days, it’s tough to get too riled about something we can’t see or feel. Many types of heart disease fall into that category and, though it’s the single largest killer of American men and women, for many of us, it isn’t even on the radar. When we talk about heart disease, what we usually mean is coronary artery disease. If your coronary arteries, which supply oxygen to the heart, become blocked, your heart doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function. That could lead to a heart attack or even death. Children need more activity. Encourage your child (ages 6 to 17) to do moderate to vigorous activity at least 1 hour every day. It’s important to become familiar with heart disease symptoms for women and men, but not everyone has obvious symptoms that point to a problem. It’s possible to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and feel just fine, which leads many of us to believe that, if we feel healthy, then we are healthy.
Experts say your goal should be one of these:
- Do some sort of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking, for at least 2½ hours each week. You can spread out these 150 minutes any way you like. For example, you could:
- Take two 11-minute walks every day, or a single 22-minute walk every day.
- Take a half-hour walk 3 days a week, and on the other 4 days take a 15-minute walk.
- Take a 45-minute walk every other day.
- Or do more vigorous activities, like running, for at least 1¼ hours a week. This activity makes you breathe harder and have a much faster heartbeatthan when you are resting. Again, you can spread out these 75 minutes any way you like. For example, you could:
- Run for 25 minutes 3 times a week.
- Run for 15 minutes 5 times a week.
being physically active halves your risk of heart disease. This is because exercise:
- lowers blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease
- increases good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for processing
- may reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol that can form fatty deposits in the arteries and contribute to heart disease
- improves circulation by preventing blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke
- increases fat loss
- helps weight-loss
- builds muscle mass.
Exercise also reduces stress by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.
How do I get started?
Beginning an exercise plan can be difficult if you’ve been out of the habit for a while.
Talk to your doctor if you’re over 40 or you are unsure about whether it’s safe to start.
People with high blood pressure, angina or who already have a heart problem should always consult a doctor before starting any exercise programme.
Most people can take regular exercise at a level that benefits them. At first this may mean a daily five-minute walk and then building it up by five minutes each week.
Best way to get fit
- Join a health club that’s easy for you to get to. Take advantage of the instructors’ experience to get you started on an appropriate exercise programme.
- Join an exercise class. There’s a huge range on offer, from body combat to the more traditional legs, bums and tums. Your local leisure centre will have a list, and they often cater for different groups such as over-50s and pregnant women. It may take a little while to feel comfortable with the new moves, but you will improve after a few weeks.
- For something more gentle and controlled, try yoga or Pilates. These are excellent alternatives for building muscle strength, tone and flexibility.
- Use your imagination. Dancing is an excellent way to exercise and dance classes can be anything from ballroom to salsa.
- Stretching exercises done twice a week helps keep flexibility, which is very important. Consider 10 minutes of stretching twice a week to improve your flexibility.
- Find a friend to exercise with. This increases your motivation to get to that class or gym session.