Exercise with a heart disease, such as a heart block, presents problems, but you should not completely avoid it. Regular exercise helps with weight loss, reduces cholesterol levels, improves circulation and alleviates stress levels, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center. Seek a medical consultation prior to starting any type of exercise program after a diagnosis of heart block.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Exercise and Heart Rate
Exercise increases the energy and oxygen needs of your muscles. This increased need causes blood vessels in the active muscles to dilate, David Nieman explains in his book “Exercise Testing & Prescription.” He goes on to explain that as the vessels dilate, your heart has to pump faster and harder to maintain blood pressure throughout the body 1. As the intensity of exercise increases, your heart rate needs to increase to keep up with the demand of the muscles.
Heart block causes the heart to beat irregularly or slower than usual. This condition can even make the heart stop for up to 20 seconds due to a malfunction in the electrical signals that make your heart beat, according to the Clinical Knowledge Summaries, or CKS, provided by the National Health Service of England. A heart block limits your heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body efficiently. CKS states that when the heart does not increase its beat fast enough or hard enough, your organs and muscles do not get the oxygen they need, possibly resulting in a stroke or heart failure.
Limit the amount of exertion you use during exercise. Patients with heart block often need to refrain from heavy cardiovascular activity that requires the heart to pump a lot of excess blood, advises Dr. Maurus L. Sorg, a doctor of sports medicine and family medicine for Elk Regional Health Center in Pennsylvania 2. He suggests that with a heart block, you should keep your exertion level below a 14 on a scale of six to 20, where six represents very, very light work and 20 represents your maximal exertion. A 14 represents an exertion level that you would consider somewhat hard.
Common exercises for people with heart block include walking, bicycling, water aerobics, light stair climbing and gardening. Only your doctor can help you determine the best exercise level for you. Avoid any exercises that require heavy lifting or cause strain directly on the chest, such as push-ups or bench press, according to Nieman. Heart-healthy benefits require exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Warm-Up And Cool Down
Heart block sufferers need a warm-up period before exercise and a cool down period after exercise to prevent radical variances in body temperature, Sorg explains. A constant body temperature helps prevent overexertion that can cause the electrical impulses of the heart to malfunction. Sorg also advises that you do not take a cold shower or extremely hot shower after exercise to further prevent body temperature variances.
When To Stop
Exercise with heart block is typically safe as long as you know what warning signs indicate a malfunction your heartbeat. Stop exercising anytime you feel sick to your stomach, short of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue or chest pain, Sorg advises. Contact your doctor if these symptoms do not resolve within five minutes of stopping exercise.
Heart block sufferers need a warm-up period before exercise and a cool down period after exercise to prevent radical variances in body temperature, Sorg explains. Avoid any exercises that require heavy lifting or cause strain directly on the chest, such as push-ups or bench press, according to Nieman. Exercise with heart block is typically safe as long as you know what warning signs indicate a malfunction your heartbeat.
- "Exercise Testing & Prescription"; David Nieman; 2010
- Dr. Maurus L. Sorg; Elk Regional Health Center; St. Marys, Pennsylvania
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