Exercise regularly to keep your heart in shape

Keep moving…it’s good for your heart!

Sedentary lifestyles are becoming a major public health hazard. Getting off the couch and moving reduces health risks, particularly from cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that four out of five Americans are not meeting recommended activity levels for aerobic and resistance exercise. Certainly, this is a health crisis in the making. Even just thirty minutes of daily activity—enough to raise your heart rate—can make all the difference.

Begin good habits

We know what’s good for us and our heart health. So, why don’t we do it? I-N-E-R-T-I-A has seven letters and a week has seven days. If you have a hard time even thinking about exercise, start with a twenty-minute walk. Then do it again tomorrow–and every day for the rest of the week. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far, just walk for twenty minutes. Keep this up, one day at a time, week after week, and, in a short period of time, your body will be craving that walk, just as, at the beginning it resisted motion.

Raise your heart rate

To keep blood circulating, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure and keeping your heart pumping, take a walk, weed that garden, dance to your favorite music—whatever it takes to raise your heart rate.

To begin, monitor your resting heart rate. Take your pulse for 30 seconds. Double the number of beats and that is your resting heart rate. At rest, the rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The more fit you are, the lower the number. To set an exercise heart rate goal, subtract your age from 220.

As you begin to be comfortable walking twenty minutes, try to exercise for a longer period of time or to vary the speed and intensity of your walk. Speeding up at intervals and, over time, increasing the duration of those more intense intervals makes your exercise time even more productive. Just start slow and know that your heart and lungs will become more efficient in delivering oxygen to your muscles.

Monitor your diet

Heart health begins with diet.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Simply adding one helping each of green vegetables and fresh fruit daily is an easy way to start. Similarly, subtracting two helpings of foods containing saturated fats will be beneficial for your heart health.

Choose heart-healthy fats

Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts, seeds, avocadoes and some fish may also lower total blood cholesterol. But, everything in moderation; even “good fats” can be high in calories. Not all fats are bad but all fats can be fattening!

Learn Common Cardiovascular Terms

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Aortic Aneurysm – the ballooning or abnormal widening of the aorta due to weakness

Arrhythmia – a change in the rhythm of the heartbeat or pulse due to a problem with the heart’s electrical system

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) – a type of arrhythmia that can cause rapid, irregular beating of the heart’s upper chambers

Cardiac Arrest – a medical emergency in which the heart suddenly stops beating and blood flow ceases to the brain and the rest of the body.

Cardiomyopathy – a disease in which the heart muscle becomes weakened, stretched, or has another structural problem

Cardiovascular Disease – diseases relating to the heart and/or blood vessels

Cholesterol – a waxy substance that the body needs to build cells. Complications can arise if the cholesterol level is outside of normal limits.

Congenital Heart Defects – problems with the heart’s structure and function that is present at birth

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – heart failure that results in the buildup of fluid in the lungs, liver, around the eyes, and sometimes in the legs

Coronary Heart/Artery Disease (CHD or CAD) – the buildup of plaque in the arteries leading to the heart which reduces blood and oxygen reaching the heart

Diabetes – a disease in which your blood sugar levels are too high and can cause an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke

Endocarditis – an inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and heart valves that is caused by an infection

Heart Attack – a medical emergency caused by the heart muscle dying due a blood clot and/or an obstruction of the coronary artery

More than 600,000 people in the US will die from heart disease this year.

Heart Failure – stiffness or weakness of the heart muscles that reduces oxygen in the blood

Heart Murmurs – a blowing, whooshing, or rasping sound of the heart during a heartbeat caused by a turbulent blood flow through the heart valves or near the heart

Heart Valve Disease – when a valve in the heart doesn’t work properly and can result in the valve leaking, not closing tightly, and/or not opening enough (heart murmurs can a sign of this disease)

Hypertension (high blood pressure, HTN/HBP): an increase in the force of blood pushing against artery walls, which causes the heart to pump harder and can lead to critical health problems

Pericarditis – inflammation of the covering around the heart

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – narrowing of the arteries in your legs and feet due to a buildup of plaque that may lead to injury of the nerves and tissue

Stroke – a medical emergency in which blood flow to the brain stops and the brain cannot receive nutrients and oxygen

Venous Thromboemolism (VTE) – a blood clot that starts in a vein

Additional heart-related information can be found through the following resources:

UVA Emergency Department has several physicians who specialize in cardiovascular emergencies. If someone is in immediate danger, please call 911 for emergency services. If you are seeking outpatient treatment, contact UVA Heart and Vascular Center by calling 434-243-1000. Heart and vascular services are also available through Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

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