Exercise And Heart Disease

A sedentary lifestyle is a controllable risk factor in exercise and heart disease along with diabetes, hypertension, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, elevated serum lipid levels, and stress.

exercise and heart disease
Physical exercise improves the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk for heart disease. Those who chose a sedentary lifestyle often have increased risk for developing obesity and other risk factors.

Management of these risk factors is important in preventing cardiovascular disease.

If you are taking medication for an unstable condition or if you have not received medical release from your rehabilitation program following heart surgery, you should not begin an unsupervised exercise program.

Most older adults can participate safely in a wide variety of activities for exercise and heart disease including low impact aerobic classes, dance classes, progressive resistance training, yoga or Pilates classes.

If you have any risk factors above or have a family history of heart disease, check with your doctor first before beginning any exercise program.

It is a good idea to get medical clearance if you are a male over 40 or a female over 50.

Stop exercising if you have any of the following

  • Over-fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pressure or pain

If you know you have heart disease, call your Doctor if any of the above happen during a workout.

Safety During Your Workout

If you have heart disease it is recommended that you take your blood pressure before and after exercise and at least once during exercise. Also, take your heart rate several times during your workout.

Make sure you perform a thorough warm-up for at least 10 minutes and cool down after exercise has ended for 10 minutes.

These periods need to have low-level limbering and rhythmical movements.

Avoid saunas, steam baths and hot tubs to decrease the risk of dehydration and hyperthermia.

It may be harmful to hold a muscular contraction due to raised blood pressure. Therefore avoid isometric and heavy resistance exercise.

If you have the flu or a fever, wait until your temperature has returned to normal before exercising.

Check out these other great ideas and solutions for elderly home care and safety.

Exercise and heart disease activities

Some  exercises are well suited to those with heart disease.


As Jack LaLanne says, walking is the “king of exercise”. Starting an outdoor walking program when the weather is favorable is a great start.  If you are a low fit person, start with 2-5  minutes. Try to build up to 30 to 45 minutes of continuous walking 3 days a week.

Low impact aerobic class:

Make sure the class is of low intensity so that the heart rate is controlled and does not exceed your training range. Don’t use ankle or wrist weights during your aerobic class.

Avoid overhead arm work.  Always include a warm up period and cool down period in your class. Check your heart rate several times during class.


Either an aqua-aerobics class for non-swimmers, or lap swimming for skilled swimmers is a good choice for endurance exercise. Don’t swim in water that is too cold. Water temperature from 80 to 86 degrees is most appropriate for the general population.

Stationary Cycling:

This is a great way to get in your aerobic workout. Make sure the seat is comfortable and cushioned to help prevent pressure ulcers and gloves to help prevent blisters on the hands. Try to build up to 20-30 minutes, three times per week.

When considering exercise and heart disease and beginning a fitness program, be consistent with quality exercise sessions to increase the benefits to your heart.


  1. My grandmother who is 75 was walking and driving had a heart attack and is home now after 6 weeks and has no energy to get out of bed on her own.
    She still can walk or anything?
    Should I be concern and how can I help now that she is home?

    1. Yes, a heart attack injures some of your heart muscle, which in turn decreases your ability to move blood through your body. This can cause not only body fatigue but also some mental problems too. It is important to begin slowly to bring back mobility and build your strength. Use a four wheeled walker with a seat to begin taking walks again. This will allow her to go farther with more comfort and safety. Start slowly around the house with the walker and gradually begin walking outdoors as her strength improves. Work up to a ten minute walk, 3 times per day.

  2. I have joined a health club and I see my heart doctor in two weeks. I will talk to him about the need for a stress test to determine whether I have heart disease. I meet with a therapist from the health club this week to establish a plan of action for getting in shape. Thanks for the information.

  3. My wife and I are 77 and I am trying to exercise more. How do I know if I have heart disease? I have HBP which is under control with meds. My weight is 265 and I am 5′-8.” Does everyone who has HBP and over weight have heart disease?

    1. Great question. Generally to assess heart disease, you will need a medical examination and possibly a clinical exercise test. Healthy seniors are recommended to get a test for heart disease if they plan on vigorous exercise only. If you plan on moderate exercise, it is usually ok. If you have any cardiac risk factors you definitely want to get a exam and possibly a clinical exercise test. Signs of heart disease include, pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, and jaw; shortness of breath at rest or with mild exertion; dizziness or fainting; trouble breathing at night or missing breaths; ankle swelling; palpitations in your chest; pain in your legs with exercise; heart murmur; unusual fatigue or shortness of breath with usual activities. The clinical exercise test is usually what we call a maximal test in which you walk then run on a treadmill with a doctor and other trained personal are continually monitoring your progress. If you cannot tolerate this type of test, you may be given a submaximal test which can also provide useful information. This can include just walking fast on a treatmill, using an “arm bike” or regular leg bike for testing. Easier tests do not provide good information on your heart but can shed light on your functional capacity and how you respond to exercise.

      1. I have heard that Angioprim will remove plaque from my arteries. Is that true, lf not will anything remove plaque? I have had a stress test and a chorin artery exam

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