Exercise is essential in preventing heart disease.1 There are primary and secondary strategies for reducing the risk of heart disorders. Primary prevention refers to the preventive steps followed by individuals who are currently healthy and are not suffering from any heart disorders, while secondary prevention refers to the preventive measures taken in individuals who have already experienced an episode of heart disorder. Prevailing evidence indicates that physical activity can help slow the progression of coronary heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, all healthy adults between the ages of 18 to 65 should be getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week as an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.2
The goals of primary prevention are to stabilize the blood vessels that supply the heart muscles and prevent the accumulation or formation of clots within these blood vessels. Secondary prevention is aimed at improving the fitness of the heart, increasing the chances of survival and improving the quality of life. It may also facilitate a faster return to work. The type of exercise followed in primary and secondary prevention may vary based on the fitness levels of the person/patient.
The most important exercises for the heart are aerobic exercises, which include walking, jogging, running, swimming and cycling. Aerobic exercise improves the health of the heart in many ways. It increases the oxygen intake of the blood vessels of the heart, increases the heart output (volume of blood ejected by the heart per minute) and improves the ability of heart muscles to extract and use oxygen from blood. Further beneficial changes in different body functions such as hemodynamic, hormonal, neurological and respiratory function also occur with increased aerobic exercise capacity. All of these contribute to a healthy and problem-free heart.
Appropriate exercise considerations are required for patients with heart disease. Nevertheless, exercise should be timed appropriately with medical treatment in order to achieve maximum benefit possible from both the modes. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy heart and to keep heart disease at bay.3
- Fletcher GF, Balady G, Blair SN, Blumenthal J, Caspersen C, et al. Statement on Exercise: Benefits and Recommendations for Physical Activity Programs for All Americans. American Heart Association. Circulation. 1996; 94(4): 857–862.
- American Heart Association. Available online at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200013 Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Yung LM, Laher I, Yao X, Chen ZY, Huang Y et al. Exercise, Vascular Wall and Cardiovascular Diseases: an Update (part 2). Sports Med. 2009; 39(1): 45–63.