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Ask the Pharmacist: Exercise tips your heart will love

Exercise tips your heart will love

(BPT) | Jan 30, 2015, 2:29 p.m.
While exercise is important for everyone, regular aerobic activity can be critical to ensuring healthier outcomes for cardiovascular patients. Even a little exercise goes a long way.

A regular exercise routine is an important component of heart health, yet less than one-third of Americans get the minimum 30 minutes of daily exercise five days a week, as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Nationally, as many as 250,000 deaths annually are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity.

While exercise is important for everyone, regular aerobic activity can be critical to ensuring healthier outcomes for cardiovascular patients. Even a little exercise goes a long way.

“Just 5-10 minutes of daily running, even at very slow speeds, can significantly lower the risk of mortality among cardiovascular patients,” says Ed Dannemiller, a specialist pharmacist in the Express Scripts Cardiovascular Therapeutic Resource Center. “Simply getting the recommended minimum amount of exercise can help reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke by 30-40 percent.”

Ed and his team counsel heart patients about the benefits of regular exercise in addition to following the medication regimen and other lifestyle changes.

Regular exercise has many other benefits for your heart as well, including: strengthening the heart muscle, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, gaining better control of one’s blood sugar and maintaining bone strength. Exercise can also help heart patients lose weight and lead more active lives without chest pain.

If you are considering starting an exercise regime, keep these precautions in mind to minimize your risks and prevent an adverse reaction.

  • If you recently had a heart surgery or procedure, experience chest pain or shortness of breath, recently had a heart attack, or have diabetes you should consult a physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

  • If you are on beta blockers, anti-arrhythmic drugs and calcium channel blockers, you may have a reduced heart rate and may experience lower gains in heart rates when exercising. Medications such as the decongestant pseudoephedrine, anti-depressants, and thyroid medications can increase exercise heart rate. It is important to know the right aerobic heart rate target to prevent overtraining or under-training your heart if you are on any of these medications.

  • If you are a cardiovascular patient, high-intensity exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and heavy lifting may not be recommended for you, so it’s a good idea to first speak with your physician.

  • You may also need to avoid certain everyday activities that can overly affect the heart rate, such as raking, shoveling and mowing.

  • Walking, swimming and light jogging are good beginning exercises if you have a cardiovascular condition.

But what if you’re already on a work-out schedule? Then keep these useful tips in mind:

  • Maintain a steady pace and rest between workouts.

  • Do not exercise outdoors in extremely humid, hot or cold temperatures. Extreme temps can make breathing difficult and cause chest pain. Try mall-walking instead.

  • In cold weather, cover your nose and mouth when exercising outside.

  • Stay hydrated by drinking water, even when you’re not feeling thirsty and especially on hot days.

  • Avoid overly cold/hot showers or sauna baths after exercise.

  • Avoid exercising in hilly areas because it may cause your heart to work too hard. Closely monitor your heart rate with your target rate in mind.

  • Stop exercising if you experience pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue. Consult your physician.

  • Stop the activity in the event of a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Check your pulse after 15 minutes of rest and consult your physician if the rate is still higher than 100-120 beats per minute.

A regular exercise routine, along with adherence to the medication regimen, can put you on the path toward better health. For more information, visit lab.express-scripts.com.

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