Since February is National Heart Health Month, it seemed like a good time to share what the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recommend regarding physical activity to improve your cardiovascular health.
Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 causes of death in our nation. Consequently, identifying methods of preventing these conditions is critical. This week, physical activity recommendations will be highlighted and next week, the nutritional component of heart disease prevention will be featured.
As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician. For more detailed information, visit www.heart.org(i.e. American Heart Association and American Stroke Association).
Prevention Tip 1: To piggy-back on the above recommendation to always consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program, if you or a loved one have been experiencing any negative cardiovascular symptoms such as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest or other upper body pain/discomfort, cold sweats, or failure to recover from exertion within a reasonable amount of time, you should definitely seek out your physician to rule out cardiovascular disease. And, if you suspect that someone around you may be displaying signs of a stroke, follow the acronym F.A.S.T. which stands for F-facial drooping, particularly on one side — ask them to smile, A-arm weakness — ask the person to raise both arms, S-slurred speech — ask the person to repeat a simple sentence such as “the sky is blue” and T-time to call 911 if they display any of these symptoms. This tip saves lives!
Prevention Tip 2: Beginning a prevention program may be as simple as walking. Walking is a terrific foundational form of physical activity that benefits just about everyone. As with all physical activity when referring to improving cardiovascular health, your walking program should be consistently performed with the intensity gradually increasing so that you continue to progress. *See Tip #6 for AHA guidelines regarding frequency, intensity, type and time of exercise.
Prevention Tip 3: If you are unable to walk due to limitations, consider stationary cycling or utilizing an upper body ergometer to improve your cardiovascular health.
Prevention Tip 4: Muscular strength training is also very important to heart health. This activity also gets the heart pumping even though the purpose is to increase muscular strength and endurance. The stronger you are from a muscular and structural perspective, the more efficiently your heart may perform. Begin with body weight only and work your way up to training with external resistance such as dumbbells, barbells, resistive tubing, selectorized and plate loaded equipment.
Prevention Tip 5: Every bit of activity you perform matters. Therefore, even if you have a day when you are unable to perform your regimented program, move your body. A little bit is better than nothing!
Prevention Tip 6: The AHA recommends the following physical activity guidelines:
“At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, five days/week for a total of 150 minutes.”
“At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days/week for a total of 75 minutes.”
“Moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days/week for additional health benefits.”
“For lowering blood pressure and cholesterol: an average of 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three to four days/week.”