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Myth or Fact: Exercise is Too Risky if You Have Heart Disease

Posted Date: 1/23/2014
After a heart attack, it is understandable that a person might be hesitant to put any added stress on their heart. “Exercise, though, is actually very helpful for recovery,” explains Dr. Robert Frankel, Director of Interventional Cardiology. “However, there’s a very important healing phase of four to six weeks.” During this healing phase, there is a lot of inflammation. Dr. Frankel notes that Isometric exercise, such as weightlifting, can overstress the heart. “Raising your blood pressure in this way is not good for the heart,” emphasizes Dr. Frankel. “If you dilate or stretch the heart during the healing phase, your heart will remain that size.”

Instead, Dr. Frankel recommends less exerting aerobic exercise, such as walking at a normal pace. He also recommends enrolling in a cardiac rehab program. “In the old days, after a heart attack, patients were required to be on bed-rest for six weeks. But studies have shown that ambulating patients and getting them moving through cardiac rehab produces better outcomes.” Not only does a structured cardiac rehab program help a person physically recover from their heart attack, but it gives them the confidence to start their recovery process. “In a rehab program, you are in a ‘safe’ situation when exercising,” explains Dr. Frankel. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored during all physical activity, in which you exercise at varying intensity levels on a treadmill or exercise bike. “Once a patient sees that they can exercise at this high level of exertion without affecting their heart, they have less trepidation when doing physical activities on the job or playing with their kids.”

Verdict: MYTH – “Nearly all heart patients can benefit from exercise,” emphasizes Dr. Frankel, “even those with heart damage or heart failure.” If you have a job that requires a certain level of physical activity, or want to get back into training for your favorite sport, it’s important that you communicate your needs to your doctor. “I can then reevaluate their condition – checking to make sure that there are no residual ischemia or other issues – before I clear them for unrestricted activity,” states Dr. Frankel.
Dr. Robert Frankel
Director, Interventional Cardiology

Dr. Robert Frankel has over 20 years experience in the specialty of interventional cardiology. He has published numerous articles in leading journals and is the Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at SUNY Health Science Center of Brooklyn.

To make an appointment, call: (718) 283-7480
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