Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Get moving for better health

Heart Month a great time to get up, and get moving

By Dr. Amir Janmohamed / Rouge Valley Cardiologist

February is Heart Month. And as we use this month to focus on the importance of heart health, if you’re not already incorporating ways to keep your heart healthy, there’s no better time than now to start.

Regardless of age, it’s never too late to add physical activity to your life. And making it a regular part of your life can turn out to be a lifesaver. Just 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day can help you to dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also help to control or even prevent risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. As well, it improves your sense of well being and quality of life.

Light activities such as walking, gardening or yoga are great ways to get started. If you’re ready for more moderate activities, try brisk walking, swimming, cycling or dancing.

While physical activity can help prevent heart disease, stroke and many other conditions, remember that vigorous physical activity can be strenuous in extreme weather conditions, such as frigid cold temperatures, smog, and intense summer heat. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario recommends approaching activities such as shoveling snow in cold weather, with caution, especially if you have been diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, or lead an inactive lifestyle.

Here are some tips to remember when exercising in extreme weather conditions:
• Prepare for the activity by doing a few minutes of a warm-up activity like walking, to slowly increase your heart rate;
• Take frequent breaks to prevent your body from becoming strained;
• If you need to complete an urgent task, such as clearing snow, ask family or friends for help;
• When shoveling snow, stop if you feel tired;
• Wear weather-appropriate clothing, and keep water close by to stay hydrated.

Almost anyone can benefit from a more active lifestyle. And if you have other health issues such as arthritis or osteoporosis, it can help to keep you mobile. If you have already had a heart attack, physical activity can help to prevent another one.

Of course, always consult your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any physical activity regimen.

Dr. Amir Janmohamed is a cardiologist at Rouge Valley Health System.

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