Click here to read Part 1 of this series.
Cardio-Vascular Health: a series about Heart Health and Cardiac Rehabilitation
Part II – For the Rest of My Life
By David T. Jones MBA – Editor, Healthy Living
About one month after the completion of my arterial blockage treatment, I was scheduled to begin my cardio rehab program. I was registered at the rehab clinic of Southlake Hospital in Newmarket, and showed up for three preliminary sessions, during which I was evaluated.
The staff put me through a series of tests, including a stress test—exercise while monitored for ECG, blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen uptake and usage. The purpose was to determine my state of health and preparedness for ongoing regular exercise, designed to slowly rehabilitate my vascular system, and bolster my fitness.
I participated in several lecture sessions, to help me understand my cardiac health status, and the factors that determine stress and rehabilitation of the cardiac system, including my heart and the supporting arterial network. Then an exercise technician designed a program of low-intensity exercise (primarily timed walking) intended to make me work while my heart rate remained within a target range. In my case, the initial exercise prescription was for a walk of one mile, at a heart rate of 84 to 90 beats per minute, five times per week. One of these sessions is to be performed at a clinic facility, with constant monitoring of heart rate and exercise intensity. Essentially, I now walk 15 laps of a track (equals one mile) in a target time of 20 minutes (actually I do it in a slightly lower time).
Of course, this is far from the level of competitive walking – the idea is to do the exercise as a controlled rate, then slowly increase the intensity and the resulting heart rate over a period of six months. Eventually, I will probably be asked to walk 2 miles five times a week, at a target heart rate of 90 to 100 beats per minute. This program is intended to develop my vascular capacity, without exposing me to risk or strain.
Each week, the session includes a lecture to help improve understanding of the body’s mechanisms, the exercise, and an assessment by qualified staff.
Meanwhile, I continue on a program of medication designed to protect my vascular system, prevent the re-development of arterial blockage, and lower my cholesterol accumulation. This will be tapered off slowly over the period of one year. And my cardiologist will perform periodic tests and checkups to ensure regular progress is achieved.
Some medication (including a baby aspirin to prevent blood clots), beat blockers for blood pressure, and statins for cholesterol control), will remain with me for my lifetime. And the medical and rehab staff hope that I will develop a pattern of including regular walking in my daily routine. This will preserve my vascular health, and slowly reverse my life-long habit of sedentary level activity.
That’s what I meant by For the Rest of My Life. This regimen will gradually become a continuing way of life, to be maintained every day to ensure vascular health is maintained. Hopefully, it will help to protect me from heart attacks and strokes on a permanent basis.
First, try to be aware of the warning signs of developing vascular health problems:
1.Increased blood pressure. Measure your own blood pressure regularly. Most drug stores have blood pressure cuff machines, and they are easy to use. Or you can buy your won cuff from stores like Costco and Walmart quite inexpensively. In the situation where you own your own cuff, you can keep records of the changes in you BP. In fact, most cuffs these days have databases, so you can compare trends. Most models also record heart rate.
2.Discuss your vascular health with your family doctor at least annually. Make the doctor aware of trends in BP and heart rate, and ask what the significance of any changes is.
3.Increased cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor to call for blood test annually, and discuss the results with the doctor.
4.Watch for fainting, dizziness, chest or arm pain, variations in pulse rate without exercise, difficulty in breathing, and other signs of vascular problems.
5.If in doubt, do not hesitate: get someone to drive you to the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital, and insist on being checked out. Treatment within the first few hours after an incident is much more effective in preventing long term effects of vascular accidents.
Second, reduce consumption of fatty, high-calorie foods. Decrease smoking, or quit altogether. Get regular, preferably daily, exercise—it doesn’t need to be time-consuming, or high intensity, a brisk walk is more than adequate. Reduce extended sitting, even for work. If you must do extended desk work, make sure you get up and move around hourly for five minutes. Socialize regularly: do not allow yourself to become a hermit, or rely on social media for your human contact, get out and interact with others. Engage in conversation, or other activity that will involve your grey cells – keep them active no matter how old you are.
These simple life choices will add at least 10 years to your life span – and it’s never too late to start.
The medical community wants you to get help, and will assist you. And the government health authorities also want you to get help—immediate short term assistance is much less expensive than long term treatment or care.