Taking Care of Your Heart

Taking Care of Your Heart

During the month of February, Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular holidays. We associate this day with love. You can’t go into a store or restaurant without seeing the place decorated with hearts and cupids. But what I want to talk about is the health of your heart, how to monitor cardiac conditions and how to recognize a cardiac emergency.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is defined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as any disease that affects the cardiovascular system. Some things that can lead to one having CVD or a cardiac emergency can be cause by:

  • Atherosclerosis or the build-up of fat and plaque in the arteries. Overtime, the artery walls begin to narrow, blocking the flow of blood and oxygen.
  • Blood pressure is the force to push blood through the vessels to reach the organs and tissues in need of oxygen and nutrients. If the force is too low, there is not enough blood traveling through the body. If it is too high (hypertension), the arteries are overworking trying to get enough blood and oxygen through the body. This stress on the arteries can be damaging and are caused by the narrowing of the vessels.

Both instances can lead to a cardiac emergency.  

According the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease and strokes are the number 1 and 2 killers of people worldwide.

  • Heart Attack: Caused by obstruction or blockage of blood flow to the heart. Signs and symptoms include pain in the chest, arms, back, neck or jaw; difficulty breathing; nausea; difficulty breathing; sweating; fatigue; lightheadedness; and loss of consciousness.
  • Stroke: Caused by a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain. Signs and symptoms include numbness in the arms, legs or face; trouble speaking; dizziness; loss of vision, balance, or coordination; dropping on one side of the face; loss of consciousness.

In both cases, it is imperative to activate the EMS.  

When exercising with cardiac conditions, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends the following:

  • It is important to self-monitor yourself during exercise. Do NOT work beyond your level comfortability. If you feel weak or sick, decrease the level of intensity or sit down and rest.
  • Avoid exercise formats that involve abruptly changing positions from lying down to standing (ie. burpees) as it can lead to a drop in blood pressure and cause dizziness.
  • Stay away from using the Valsalva maneuver: a breathing technique during exercise that includes a strong and forceful exhale effort typically performed by closing one’s mouth or pinching the nose shut. This as a result builds pressure that interferes with the return of blood to the heart and brain causing lightheadedness or faintness.

Your heart is the single most important organ for your well-being. Let’s take it serious when it comes to taking care of your heart!

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