Exercise and Heart Disease Part I

By Warren Selkow, Patient and Exercise Hater

Why I Hate Exercising for Heart Disease

The instruction has been given. Exercise is now to be part of the daily routine. We will start with everybody's favorite exercise, jumping jacks. All together now on my count, one, two, one, two, one... Why is nobody jumping? All right, lets do some leg squats. One... You don't like those either? Push-ups? Sit-ups? Chin-ups? Okay, a two-mile run? Not that either? Fifty-pound weights? You want to take a pass on those too? Elbow bends? Oh, this one you like, especially if there are either potato chips or tacos at the end of the arm. I used to feel the same way but that was before a surgeon sawed apart my sternum. No, wait a minute; I still feel the same way.

Exercise is hard. It is unusually hard if you must do it and you don't want to or worse, don't understand why you have to do it. It gets even harder if the routine is beyond your physical level of ability to do the exercise. If we had liked to exercise, we might not have had that damn heart attack in the first place. We might have been able to avoid the diagnosis of heart disease. Or to paraphrase Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, "We coulda been somebody". Nope, none of that happened. We all just plodded along our merry way never considering the result of our lack of physical activity.

If you are a caregiver, you are faced with a most daunting task. You must try to find a way to get your loved one or patient off the butt and on the right track. Good luck with that. Taking someone who has been exercising inactive for a long period of time and getting them to be exercising active is a formidable challenge. To be physically active requires one prerequisite: The patient must want to do it.

A big change is necessary. Exercise is no longer a luxury. It is an absolute necessity.

Of all the things a heart patient must do to get better and to stay well, exercise is the most important.

Coronary Heart Disease Prevention with Exercise

What a stupid headline for this section. There is no preventing heart disease with exercise for you or your patient. You are on this site because there has already been a diagnosis of heart disease. Well since prevention is too late for us, we must opt for the next best option: getting and staying well. We are all in this together and this is something we can write about. Exercise is the difference between life and death. I am not trying to be dramatic. I am stating fact. Exercise and live, don’t exercise and die.

Why is Exercise for Heart Disease Necessary?

In The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases we wrote a very detailed section on exercise. We are not going to rehash all that material here. Read the book. There are three main reasons why an exercise regime is important for patients with heart disease. There are:

  1. Exercise will strengthen the heart
  2. Exercise will lower blood pressure
  3. Exercise will tone body muscle

Exercise with a regular regime will generate many benefits.

Heart Disease Exercise Benefits

The list of benefits of exercise is long. The most important benefits are these:

  1. An exercised body feels better than an unexercised body with less every day aches and pains
  2. Improved appetite with better digestion
  3. Improved sleep patterns and habits
  4. Depression, anxiety and stress relief
  5. Weight loss

The Relationship of Exercise to Heart Disease and Heart Disease Recovery

If you have had open-heart surgery, the fastest path to recovery is by exercise. In the hospital, in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a recovering open-heart surgery patient is gotten out of bed and made to walk within three days of the surgery. It seems cruel and it hurts but it is one of the most important elements of healing. It is an animal thing and it is an animal necessity. What is good for our fellow animals is good for us.

Dinner will soon be served. The fat guy will not be able to outrun the hunter, like in the good old days. And that fat guy is going to be easy prey and good eating. There is nothing like a fat deer, beef, chicken or pig.

For us to survive as we evolved, it was necessary for us to stay on the move, in order for us to both find food and avoid becoming food. We had thin, hard bodies. These bodies are now found mostly on serious models and serious athletes or those that aspire to be either. As for the rest of us, well just look around. We are fat, lazy and weak. As a result, we have chronic disease and most notably in this case, heart disease.

The formula is one of cause and effect. If we spent our lives being very active and very physical, and we were not careless about our diets, we have little or no heart disease. If, on the other hand, we have spent our lives always taking the physically easiest way, the chances are that by the time we reach fifty-five or so, we are sent to the cardiologist and told, "You have heart disease."

Heart Disease Exercise Rules

It is necessary to set out some basic rules for starting and establishing an exercise regime. The rules are these:

  1. Start slowly and gradually increase your stamina and exercise ability
  2. Find a regime that fits your temperament and your physical abilities
  3. Do only low impact exercise and use only light weights (not more than five pounds)

It is also necessary for an attitude adjustment to be made. The attitude adjustment rules are:

  1. Resign to the fact of the need for the exercise
  2. Resolve to exercise on a regular basis
  3. Regulate your schedule to accommodate the daily exercise routine

What kind of exercises should you do? It all depends on your condition. In Exercise and Heart Disease: Part II we will address that issue any others.

In the meantime, get busy getting well. Exercise.

The Simplified Handbook for
Living with Heart Disease
and Other Chronic Diseases

This comprehensive, doctor reviewed and approved book explains heart disease from a patientís perspective. Without complicated medical mumbo-jumbo, this blunt and hilarious book is a total lifesaver.