SPRINGFIELD — February is American Heart Month and Mercy Health knows that staying active is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of both men and women.
“Exercise really is the best medicine. It can improve blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, lower your blood sugar, even help the parts of our body that are impacted negatively with stress,” explained Lisa McClure, RN supervisor of Cardiopulmonary Wellness for Mercy Health.
Mercy Health offers intense cardiac rehabilitation programs in Springfield and Urbana to help patients who are recovering from surgery or medical treatment related to a heart issue. These medically supervised programs support patients through guided exercises to help get their heart pumping, education on ways to prevent heart disease such as healthier eating habits and stress reduction counseling.
“We have an entire staff that consists of registered nurses and exercise physiologists who work with your doctor to develop a program that is unique to you and your needs,” said McClure. “Every day is a meaningful one for a heart healthy lifestyle, so I strongly recommend all patients, especially if they already have been diagnosed with heart disease, to take advantage of the available programs, be proactive and build a stronger as well as healthier heart lifestyle.”
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices. That starts at home and can involve small, simple steps.
“You can go for a walk around your neighborhood, take a hike, join a dance class, even gardening can be included in exercises that are good for your heart health,” said McClure who strongly believes in choosing an activity you enjoy. “If you like doing it, it’s something you can stick with and that’s the key. You want to choose things that are going to be sustainable. It may look different for everyone.”
When deciding on what type of activity is best, just remember the most effective heart healthy workouts do two things — increase your heart rate and cause you to breathe a little faster. If you’d like to monitor your heart rate, then start by calculating your maximum heart rate. You do this by subtracting your age from 220. For good heart health, you want to stay between 50% – 80% of that resulting number.
For example, a 40-year-old’s maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. That means when working out, this person would want to maintain a heart rate between 90 and 144. Health experts recommend getting in 150 minutes of exercise a week at this pace. However, the numbers are just a guideline to help you get your heart rate up. The most important thing is to listen to your body.
“Certain medications can keep your heart rate from going up the same way it would if you aren’t taking medications. There are other factors that can change what’s considered the right intensity level for you. So, make sure to tell your doctor you want to get moving so you can talk about what the parameters should be to make sure it’s safe for you to get moving,” said McClure.
For more heart health tips and to learn about the cardiac services available at Mercy Health, visit www.mercy.com.