Heart Health: There is Value in Exercise
By: Tamanna K. Singh, MD, FACC • Posted on February 06, 2019
Every February we are reminded about the importance to improve our heart and vascular health. As a physician, this month is an opportune time for me to help others recognize the value of challenging their bodies with healthy, physical activity just as I do nearly every day.
What is value? According to Merriam-Webster, value is relative worth, utility, or importance.
Women Care For So Many
As women, we work tirelessly to ensure our partners, our children – even our pets – get their daily dose of physical activity. We value the pride and confidence they feel in achieving personal bests, and we value the rush of endorphins that never fails to accompany physical activity. How often have your loved ones returned from a workout or a game feeling happier and accomplished? Probably always. So why not add value to your life by incorporating consistent exercise to improve heart health?
Becoming physically active can be quite daunting, especially if you are sedentary or overweight and find yourself easily succumbing to the frustrations and fears that can accompany the uncomfortableness of beginning an exercise program. I say this from personal experience: your weight and your sedentary lifestyle do not and will not ever dictate your ability to become active. Your ability is entirely dependent upon the value you place in yourself to take that first step towards a healthier you!
Heart Health Facts
Most women are unaware that one woman dies every minute from cardiovascular disease in the US. In fact, a woman’s risk of dying from heart disease is ten times greater than her risk of dying from breast cancer. Fortunately, with campaigns such as the American Heart Association’s Go Red campaign, awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death in women is slowly rising. However, most women in their 20s-40s rarely discuss risk and prevention strategies with their primary care physicians, and every year, more than half a million Americans have their first heart attack.
Exercise is Good for the Heart
We have decades of cardiac research confirming the benefits of exercise that go well beyond the confidence that comes in tandem with becoming physically stronger. At least 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week has been proven to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase good cholesterol (HDL)
- Reduce bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Reduce the risk of developing diabetes
- Contribute to successful and long-lasting weight loss
These physiologic changes collectively maximize your heart’s ability to pump blood to your vital organs efficiently. Not only does exercise reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, but it also reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease! As you improve your level of fitness, your risk of cardiac-related death and complications will decline.
Now that you know the incredible benefits of exercise, it’s time to start moving! My favorite thing about exercise is that it truly is a cheap – if not free – way to effectively reduce your risk of developing an emotionally and monetarily costly disease. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, exercise is a foolproof way to reduce your risk of disease progression.
Best Tips to Start an Exercise Program
The simplest program to implement is a walking program.
- Open the door, grab a pair of comfortable sneakers, and find a trail, a sidewalk, or a road to explore.
- If you are not accustomed to walking, avoid an injury-related setback by starting slow.
- Walk or perform aerobic exercise for 10-minute periods followed by several minutes of rest and build on this consistent workload, slowly increasing your exercise time and reducing your rest time until you are able to exercise for at least 30-45 minutes at an intensity where you can hold a conversation.
- If you can sing a song, you are exercising at a low intensity that will not provide you with sufficient cardiovascular benefit.
- If you cannot speak a full sentence, you are exercising at too high an intensity that is not maximizing your ability to build aerobic fitness.
- If you can hold a conversation, you are exercising at a moderate-intensity, building your aerobic base, and optimizing your cardiorespiratory fitness.
Exercise is a simple, yet effective way to improve cardiac health and reduce your risk and mortality of an incredibly burdensome disease. Remember: YOU are valued. So, place value in exercise and get moving towards a healthier you!
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
Tamanna Singh, MD, FACC, is a clinical cardiologist (heart specialist) and a member of the Sports Cardiology Center in the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. She sees patients at Cleveland Clinic main campus. Dr. Singh's specialty Interests include sports cardiology/cardiovascular care of competitive and recreational athletes, cardiopulmonary exercise testing, adult echocardiography, women’s cardiovascular health, cardiovascular disease prevention and wellness, diet and nutrition.
Dr. Singh earned her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine and served her residency at Boston Medical Center. She served a three-year fellowship in cardiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, then returned to Boston to complete her specialty training in sports cardiology with the Cardiovascular Performance Program fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. She joined the Cleveland Clinic medical staff upon completion of that experience in June 2018.
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