Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and there is a growing body of evidence that shows its positive effects on overall health, especially heart health. Dr. Jeff Tyler, an interventional and structural cardiologist with the Orange County Heart Institute in California, confirms that regular, moderate exercise helps the heart by reducing the risk factors that cause heart disease.
However, exercise can also pose a risk to heart health if not done properly, which can lead to serious consequences. In this article, we will explore the benefits and risks of exercise for heart health, as well as the signs to stop exercising and when to consult a doctor.
Exercise and Heart Health
Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and improve overall heart health. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), physical activity is one of the most effective ways to ward off heart disease and stroke, two of the top causes of death in the U.S. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for adults each week.
Moreover, exercise has a positive impact on several heart-related factors, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels through exercise reduces the strain on the heart, and improved blood sugar regulation decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise also lowers inflammation, which plays a key role in the development of many chronic diseases, including heart disease.
Exercising regularly leads to better heart health because it strengthens the heart muscles, making them more efficient in pumping blood when needed. Exercise increases the body’s oxygen needs, which means that the heart has to work harder. Over time, this leads to improved cardiovascular fitness, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Risks of Overtraining
While regular exercise is generally beneficial for heart health, overtraining can pose a risk to heart health, particularly for people with certain underlying heart conditions. Extreme, long-term endurance exercises, such as ultra-marathon runs of 50 or 100 miles, may cause heart remodeling that may be harmful or increases in cardiac enzymes that may suggest heart injury.
Dr. Jonathan Drezner, a Seattle-based family medicine physician at the University of Washington who specializes in sports medicine, says that “there is a little bit of this cardiac arrest paradox, where we’re telling people, ‘Exercise is beneficial when you do it on a regular basis, but at times (it) can be a trigger for something worse.'”
Moreover, overtraining can lead to “overuse injuries,” which are caused by repetitive stress on the joints and muscles. These injuries can be serious and may require surgery or prolonged rest to heal.
Signs to Stop Exercising
There are several signs that you should stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention. If you experience chest pressure or pain, unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, or dizziness, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Moreover, if you find that your muscles are sore all the time, and you’re having trouble sleeping and keeping up with previously easy workouts, then something is probably wrong. In this case, it’s best to rest and seek medical advice.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you’re at risk for heart disease, it’s important that you talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise plan. For example, your doctor may provide specific guidelines so you can exercise safely after a heart attack.
Risk factors for heart disease include a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, it’s especially important to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions that may affect your ability to exercise. This may include arthritis, asthma, or any other chronic medical condition.
In addition, if you experience any of the following symptoms during exercise, stop immediately and consult your doctor:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea or vomiting
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
These symptoms could be a sign of a serious medical condition, and it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but it’s important to exercise safely. By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of injury and get the most out of your workouts. Remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.”