Most of us know that regular exercise is important for maintaining heart health and preventing many heart-related diseases and conditions. Exercise helps the heart stay fit while improving circulation for maximum delivery of oxygen and nutrients.

But what if you already have a heart problem? Is it still safe to exercise? And what should you do to enjoy the benefits of physical activity without taxing your heart?

Ashish Pal, MD, treats all sorts of heart disease, and he has plenty of experience helping his patients at Vein & Cardiovascular Center optimize their lifestyles to keep their hearts as healthy as possible.

That includes providing patient-specific recommendations for exercise and physical activity.

Before beginning any exercise program, you should schedule an office visit to ensure your heart is healthy enough to withstand the added exertion. But there are also some general guidelines you should follow once you get the go-ahead from Dr. Pal.

Start slowly

With or without heart disease, it’s always a good idea to begin any new exercise plan slowly to give your body time to adjust.

Choose a simple aerobic activity, like walking, to begin with, and aim to do it three times a week to start. Eventually, work up to the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 150 minutes a week — think 30 minutes five days a week.

Don’t skip the warmup

Before any activity, take 5-10 minutes to warm up with gentle stretching or stepping in place. These activities prep your muscles and your heart while ramping up circulation slowly. You can repeat the same routine after exercise to cool down.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration is tough on your heart, and it can happen before you know it. Prevent dehydration by taking a water bottle with you while you exercise, and sip from it regularly.

Avoid hot weather

Hot weather is also tough on your heart — and the rest of your body, too. When the weather is hot, exercise in the cooler hours of the day or take a walk in the air-conditioned mall, instead.

Be careful in cold weather too

Breathing in cold air constricts your blood vessels, which can raise your blood pressure and strain your heart. Cover your nose and mouth with a light scarf or, again, exercise indoors where the temperature is controlled.

Think about weights

Walking is a great activity for your heart, but weight-bearing exercises can be good for the rest of your body. A little resistance training can help your other muscles work better, which can make everyday exercises a little easier.

Before doing any weight-related activities, be sure to consult with Dr. Pal.

Consider a trainer

If it’s been some time since you exercised or if you’re nervous about getting started, working with a physical trainer could be a good first step. A trainer can ensure your exercises are safe for your heart.

Listen to your body

Be aware of how you’re feeling during exercise, and never, ever try to “play through the pain.” If you feel tired out, stop and rest. And if you have any pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, nausea, or an irregular heartbeat, stop exercising and call the office.

One more tip: If you use nitroglycerin, always carry it with you while you’re exercising.

Learn more heart-healthy tips

Heart disease can be serious, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, you can feel confident that you’re doing your part to help your heart stay healthy.

To learn what else you can do and to find out about treatments Dr. Pal offers at Vein & Cardiovascular Center, book an appointment online or over the phone today at one of our offices, in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida.

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