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Quitting smoking is a tremendous step towards improving your health. By giving up smoking, you allow your lungs to heal and experience improved breathing. Additionally, the benefits of quitting smoking for your heart health are numerous and begin almost immediately. Make 2023 the beginning of a new chapter for yourself and join many individuals who have successfully quit smoking. 

Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease and has been linked to various cardiovascular conditions. Nicotine, the addictive chemical found in tobacco, causes a rise in blood pressure and heart rate, which can damage the heart and blood vessels over time. Smoking prevalence estimates from the Australian Health Survey 2014–2015 show the damage that tobacco smoking causes across the entire cardiovascular system. (Ref. Link)

 

What are the heart health risks associated with smoking?

Smoking can lead to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries, making them narrower and less flexible. This can restrict blood flow to the heart, increasing the risk of a heart attack. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can also damage the walls of the arteries, causing inflammation and plaque formation. Coronary artery disease, a specific type of atherosclerosis, affects the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. Smoking increases the risk of plaque buildup in these vessels, which can lead to a heart attack or other serious complications. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Nicotine in the smoke causes the blood to become sticky and more likely to clot, which can block the flow of oxygen to the heart or brain. Smoking also increases the risk of peripheral artery disease, which occurs when plaque buildup in the arteries reduces blood flow to the legs and feet. It also increases the risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm – a bulging or weakening of the aorta wall, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body.

 

What is the link between smoking frequency and risk of heart disease?

The risk of heart disease from smoking is directly related to the number of cigarettes smoked daily and the duration of smoking. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes they smoke per day, the greater their risk of developing heart disease. Secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoke, harms heart health too. Non-smokers exposed to passive smoke have a 30% higher risk of developing heart disease than non-smokers who are not exposed to secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking can significantly improve heart health. The risk of heart disease begins to decrease soon after quitting and continues to decline as time passes. The risk of heart attack also decreases; within a year of quitting, the risk of a heart attack is about half that of a continuing smoker. 

 

How to quit smoking?

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your health. Here are some tips to help you quit smoking: 

  1. Set a quit date: Choose a specific date to quit smoking, and plan how you will handle cravings and triggers on that day and in the days and weeks that follow.
  2. Identify your triggers: Think about the situations, emotions, or activities that make you want to smoke. Once you know your triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid or manage them.
  3. Get support: Tell your friends and family about quitting, and ask for their support. You can also seek help from a quitline, your healthcare provider, or a support group.
  4. Nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. NRT comes in different forms, such as gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays.
  5. Medications: Several prescription medications can help with quitting smoking, such as bupropion and varenicline. These medications can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of success.
  6. Relaxation techniques: Practice techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to help reduce stress and manage cravings.
  7. Avoid alcohol: Avoiding alcohol can help reduce cravings and make it easier to resist smoking.
  8. Reward yourself: Celebrate your milestones, such as reaching one week, one month, or three months smoke-free. Treat yourself to something you’ve been wanting, or put the money you would have spent on cigarettes into a savings account.

 

It’s important to remember that quitting smoking is a process and it may take several attempts before you are successful. If you slip up and smoke, don’t give up. Instead, think about what led to the slip-up and analyze how you can avoid that situation in the future. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the success rate of quitting smoking is higher when a combination of strategies is used, such as NRT and medications, combined with behavioral support.

In conclusion, quitting smoking can be difficult, but it’s worth it. Setting a quit date, identifying triggers, seeking support, using Nicotine Replacement Therapies and medications, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding alcohol, and rewarding yourself can help increase the chances of success. Remember that quitting smoking is a process. If you slip up, don’t give up. Seek professional help, and keep trying. Beyond quitting cigarettes, the best way to make sure your heart is healthy is to use a smart heart monitor that constantly keeps track of your cardiac health. Purchase the revolutionary Frontier X2 and get started on your journey to a healthier tomorrow!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does smoking affect the heart?

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by damaging the cardiovascular system and increasing the levels of harmful chemicals in the blood. It can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

How long does it take for the heart to recover after quitting smoking?

The benefits to the heart can be seen almost immediately after quitting smoking. Within just 20 minutes of quitting, the heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal. After a year of being smoke-free, the risk of heart disease is reduced by half.

What are some ways to protect the heart while quitting smoking?

Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress can all help to protect the heart while quitting smoking. Medications and nicotine replacement therapy can also be used to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Can smoking just a few cigarettes a day still harm the heart?

Yes, even smoking just a few cigarettes a day can increase the risk of heart disease. The more cigarettes smoked and the longer someone smokes, the greater the risk.

Are there any natural remedies that can help quit smoking and protect the heart?

There are a variety of natural remedies and alternative therapies that may help with quitting smoking and protecting the heart. Some popular options include acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and herbal supplements. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative therapies.

 

Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:

Persistent Atrial Fibrillation |Arrhythmia Causes | Aquatic Exercise for Heart Health | Yoga for Heart Health | Silent heart attack risk |
Stress Test for Heart | Stress and Heart Rate Variability | AFib Risk Factors | Low Carb Diet | Heart Rate Monitor

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Studies have shown that a significant proportion of COVID-19 patients experience cardiac involvement, which can manifest as palpitations, arrhythmias, or changes in heart rate. This is believed to be due to inflammation caused by the virus and the body’s immune response to it.

What are the effects of coronavirus on the heart and circulatory system?

COVID-19 has many adverse effects on the heart like increased heart rate and heart palpitations, blood clots, damage to the heart from a lack of oxygen and nutrients, inflammation of the heart muscle called broken heart syndrome. People with existing heart and circulatory conditions are at a greater risk for heart complications from Covid-19, although these complications are also observed in those without pre-existing heart disease. This is because the virus is thought to damage the endothelial lining (inner lining) of blood vessels. This can lead to blood clotting, leaky blood vessels, reduced blood supply to other parts of the body.

Heart Palpitations After COVID

Many people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection may continue to experience side effects for months, and in some cases, these symptoms can persist for up to six months or longer post-infection. Heart palpitations refer to sensations of a fast or irregular heartbeat, including pounding, fluttering, or skipping beats. While usually not harmful, it is important to seek medical advice if palpitations persist or worsen, or if you have pre-existing heart disease. Medical attention may be required in certain situations such as chest pain, dizziness, prolonged or intense palpitations, or other heart complications.

Long COVID is believed to cause heart palpitations due to inflammation caused by the virus and the body’s immune response to it. The virus can cause inflammation in the heart muscle (myocarditis) and blood vessels (vasculitis), which can lead to changes in heart rate and rhythm. Additionally, Long COVID patients have been reported to have high levels of cytokines, which are inflammatory molecules that can affect the heart and cause palpitations. The exact mechanisms by which the virus causes these changes are still being studied, but it is known that the virus can directly infect the heart and cause myocarditis, which can be responsible for heart palpitations

Understanding Long COVID Palpitations: Symptoms to Watch For

The symptoms of palpitations associated with Long COVID include:

  • A sensation of your heart beating fast, hard, or irregularly
  • Fluttering or “skipping” beats
  • A sensation of “thumping” or “pounding” in your chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fatigue

It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, so it’s important to consult with your cardiologist if you experience any of these symptoms. They will be able to diagnose the cause of your heart palpitations and recommend appropriate treatment options after the necessary tests. 

Long COVID and Heart Rate: Can post-COVID affect your heart’s rhythm?

Many people have noticed an increase in heart rate after recovering from COVID. Normal heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute; an increase in this rate, resulting in tachycardia, is of concern in “long haulers”. Majority of long haulers experience a rapid heart rate (Ref. Link) due to prolonged illness or inactivity. Some may experience an increase in the heart rate while standing which is called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). This is caused by the abnormality in the Autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls the blood flow back to the heart. Researchers attribute the increase in heart rate following infection with Covid to the virus and immune response affecting the autonomic nervous system (rather than heart itself) and lack of physical activity. The majority of these patients’ cardiac test results are normal. Other common causes of an elevated heart rate include dehydration, stress or anxiety, exercise, caffeine, or the introduction of a new medication. Temporary variations in heart rate are typically not a cause for alarm. Studies have shown that up to one-third of survivors of non-severe COVID-19 experience new electrocardiographic changes and arrhythmias. Although an irregular heartbeat can be caused by other factors such as dehydration, it’s important to consult your doctor to rule out more serious Long COVID complications such as myocarditis, blood clots, and heart dysfunction.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are some common symptoms of Long COVID?

Some of the common symptoms of long COVID are fatigue and prolonged exhaustion, shortness of breath, cognitive difficulties such as brain fog, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating, loss of taste or smell, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and chest pain or palpitations.

Are heart palpitations a common symptom of Long COVID?

You can experience palpitations along with other persistent symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness. In most cases, they are not indicative of a serious problem.

 How can I manage my heart palpitations if I have Long COVID?

Palpitations are usually harmless and do not require any treatment.  You should see a doctor if they occur too often, last too long, or worsen over time. If palpitations are due to a heart problem like cardiac arrhythmias, your doctor may prescribe beta blockers to regulate your heart rhythm.

How long do heart palpitations usually last in Long COVID patients?

Heart palpitations may last for seconds, minutes, or even longer. You can feel the heart pounding or fluttering in your chest. They can occur anytime, even during rest or routine activities.

Can Long COVID cause heart damage?

Yes. Although long COVID primarily affects the respiratory system, it can damage the heart. Temporary or permanent heart  damage can result from:

  • Insufficient oxygen supply to the heart can result in cell death and tissue damage of the heart and other organs.
  • COVID 19 may cause inflammation of the blood vessels and heart resulting in blood clots, reduction in blood flow to the heart and other organs.

Stress cardiomyopathy, which is caused by viral infections, damages the heart.

Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:

Heart Health | Running Heart Rate. | Increased Heart rate | Irregular Heartbeat causes | AFib and Heart | Atrial Fibrillation Heart Rate | Endurance Training Exercise | Heart Rate Monitor Device | Exercise for Heart Health | Resting Heart Rate for Women

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact globally, with millions of cases and deaths reported in the United States alone. This Expert Consensus Decision Pathway (Ref. Link) aims to provide guidance for clinicians caring for adults with cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and fainting after SARS-CoV-2 infection. It addresses frequently asked questions and provides practical guidance in the absence of extensive clinical trial data. In this blog, we have tried to cover what cardiologists recommend and want you to know about long COVID.

 

 

What Do We Know About Long COVID in 2023?

Long COVID refers to a set of symptoms that persist for weeks or months after the acute phase of a COVID-19 infection has resolved. These symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty breathing, as well as others such as muscle aches, joint pain, and sleep disturbances. It is still not fully understood why some people experience Long COVID while others do not, but it is believed to be related to the severity of the initial infection and individual differences in the immune system’s response. SARS-CoV-2 has caused more than 600 million confirmed cases, with more than 6.5 million deaths as of November 2022, more than two years into the global pandemic. Though the pathophysiology and immunological response  of long COVID conditions are still being studied most of the symptoms and risk factors are identified.

Symptoms of long COVID – The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction (brain fog). People may experience many other symptoms, like chest pain, fever, muscle pains, loss of smell and taste, anxiety, and depression.

Risk factors of long COVID – Identified risk factors for long-term COVID include older age; pre-existing comorbidities including obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus; initial disease severity; and female sex.

How long does long COVID last – It’s still unclear how long the condition can persist. It may last for a few weeks, months, or a year. More research is required to track long-term COVID patients and determine when, ideally, their symptoms will subside.

Management of long COVID condition – Multidisciplinary approach is recommended to manage long COVID patients. A person who develops long COVID conditions should seek help from primary healthcare professionals and relevant specialists. These include rehab professionals, social care workers, psychosocial workers, and mental health professionals.

Vaccination and long COVID -There is yet to learn how vaccination directly impacts long COVID conditions. Vaccination helps prevent COVID-19 infection, which is the best way to avoid post-COVID-19 infection or long COVID. The use of vaccines also reduces hospitalization and reduces mortality.

 

What Are The Common Heart Problems After COVID-19?

Although COVID-19 primarily affects the lungs or respiratory system, the heart can also be affected. Cardiovascular complications have been reported in both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. Twenty to thirty percent of hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 have evidence of myocardial involvement.

COVID-19 can cause temporary and lasting damage to the heart tissue leading to the following conditions:

Myocarditis and Pericarditis: Inflammation caused by the virus impacts the heart, causing Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and Pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart). The coronavirus can directly infect and damage the heart muscle, or the heart muscle can be damaged and inflamed by the body’s immune response to the virus.

Arrhythmias and Heart failure: COVID-19 can  directly damage the heart causing Arrhythmias and heart failure in few patients. An estimated 10 to 20 % of patients have arrhythmias related to COVID-19 infection. You can track your heart rate and ECG continuously using a heart rate monitor such as Frontier X2

 

Blood clots: Severe COVID-19 infection damages the inner walls (endothelial lining) of the blood vessels and also causes blood clots throughout the body. If the blood clot obstructs the heart or brain artery, it leads to heart attack and stroke.

Stress cardiomyopathy: Viral infections subject the body to stress, which results in heart muscle disorder that impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. As soon as the infection resolves, the stress ends, and the heart can recover.

Cytokine storm: This is a severe complication of coronavirus. In response to a coronavirus infection, the body releases a surge of proteins called cytokines, which help cells communicate with one another and fight off the invaders. This standard defensive mechanism is exaggerated in some people, leaving them vulnerable to cytokine storms. This causes inflammation of different tissues and organs like kidneys, liver, and heart. Cytokine storms can also lead to cardiac arrhythmias.

Read Cardiologist Advice on Long COVID: 

  • Call emergency services: If you experience any heart attack or worsening symptoms related to your heart condition, call the emergency services and go to the hospital.
  • Continue to take your prescribed heart medications: There have been reports that certain heart medications, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs, may make it easier for the virus to infect your body’s cells. There is currently no proof that taking these drugs increases your risk of developing COVID-19 or lessens its severity. The advantages of taking these medications, like lowering blood pressure, outweigh any potential risks.
  • Keep a stock of prescribed medications: Ensure you have enough heart medicine for a few weeks. If you have any concerns about your heart medications, consult your doctor or pharmacist but do not discontinue your medications on your own; seek advice from a healthcare professional.
  • Focus on heart-healthy lifestyle habits: Engage in regular physical activity and consume nutritious foods. Keep your stress levels as low as possible and maintain your social connections. If you have any questions about your heart or general health, contact your healthcare team. 
  • Belief in facts over rumours: Social media and other channels are full of information about COVID-19. It can sometimes be misleading. The best available evidence is being compiled and presented by organisations like Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. Remember to reach out to your healthcare professional if you have any doubts.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can long COVID affect my heart health?

Yes, long COVID affects the heart. Long COVID causes damage to the heart muscle, inflammation of the lining of the heart and blood vessels. It also causes arrhythmias, stress cardiomyopathy in some patients.

What are the potential long-term heart health effects of COVID-19?

People with severe COVID may suffer multi organ damage which involves the heart, kidneys, skin and brain. Autoimmune conditions and inflammation are also possible. It is unclear how long these effects could potentially last. They may last for a few weeks, months or a year.

Should I be concerned about my heart health if I had COVID-19 and have not fully recovered?

Long-term COVID causes heart damage, but you should not be concerned if you experience only fatigue after COVID, which is a common sign. Please see your doctor if you experience additional heart-related symptoms such as chest pain, dyspnoea, and palpitations.

Are there any specific tests or screenings that I should have to check for the long-term heart health effects of COVID-19?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an echocardiogram(ECG) or cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) for patients with heart disease symptoms.

Can long COVID increase my risk of heart disease or other heart conditions?

Myocarditis caused by COVID-19 can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias.

 

Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:

Stress and Heart Rate Variability | Long Covid Symptoms | Best Vitamins For Heart Health | Best Bed Time For Heart Health | Exercise for Heart Health | Resting Heart Rate for Women | Heart Health | Running Heart Rate | Heart Attack causes | Wearable ECG Monitor

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Stretching is commonly known to increase flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness, but it may also have positive effects on blood vessels. A recent study from the University of Milan found that a 12-week stretching regimen improved blood flow, reduced blood pressure, and decreased the stiffness of arteries. This is significant because good blood flow can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and people with stiff arteries are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation.

Details on the Research on Stretching for Heart Health

The study involved 40 men and women who were divided into three groups. One group performed leg, ankle, and foot stretches 5 times a week for 40 minutes, another group only stretched one side of the body, and the third group did not stretch at all. After 12 weeks, the participants in the stretching groups showed significant improvement in the health of their blood vessels, specifically in the decreased stiffness and better function of their arteries.

The study participants used a form of stretching called passive stretching, which can be easily done at home using stretch bands or your own body weight. Although stretching can help blood vessel function, researchers noted that it may not have the same benefit on the heart muscle as aerobic exercises like running, walking or cycling. However, stretching is a good alternative when limited to home-based activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an image of the passive stretching training. (Ref. Link)

 

Stretching has been shown to improve heart health in several ways. Here’s how stretching has a direct impact on your heart health. 

  • Reducing arterial stiffness: Stretching has been shown to reduce the stiffness of the arteries, which can improve blood flow and lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Lowering blood pressure: Stretching can help to lower resting blood pressure, which can reduce the workload on the heart and decrease the risk of hypertension.
  • Lowering heart rate: Stretching has been shown to lower resting heart rate, which can improve cardiovascular fitness and decrease the risk of heart disease. Track your heart rate and ECG continuously using a heart rate monitor such as Frontier X2. 
  • Reducing muscle tension: Stretching can help to reduce muscle tension, which can improve the efficiency of the heart and make it easier to pump blood throughout the body.

 

Here Are Some Tips for Safe Stretching

  1. Breathe steadily while stretching, avoiding holding your breath.
  2. Stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain.
  3. Avoid bouncing or jerky movements, which can lead to injuries. Instead, hold the stretch steady.
  4. Take your time, holding the stretch for 10-30 seconds before releasing and repeating the stretch.
  5. Stretch when your muscles are warm, either at the end of a workout or after a warm bath or shower.

Stretches For Heart Health, For Beginners

The American Council on Exercise recommends these three stretches for beginners:

  • Standing Hip Flexor Stretch: Step forward with your left foot, keeping your right foot in place. Drop your back knee slightly, allowing your tailbone to move closer to the floor. Keep your back straight. Hold the stretch and then repeat on the other side.
  • Seated Head-Toward-Knee Stretch: Sit with your right leg stretched out in front of you. Bend your left leg, placing your left foot next to your right thigh. Gently fold your torso forward over your right leg. Hold the stretch and then repeat on the other side.
  • Reclining Figure 4 Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left thigh and pull your left thigh towards you. Let gravity bring your legs closer to your body to deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch and then repeat on the other side.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does stretching improve heart health?

Stretching has been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, improve endothelial function, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduce muscle tension, which can all contribute to improved heart health.

How often should I stretch for heart health?

It is recommended to stretch at least two to three times per week for at least 10 to 30 seconds per stretch.

Can stretching be harmful to heart health?

Stretching should not be harmful to heart health when done correctly. It is important to avoid overstretching and to stop if you feel pain. It’s best to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program, particularly if you have heart disease.

Are there specific stretches that are better for heart health?

There are no specific stretches that have been proven to be better for heart health than others. However, stretches that focus on the legs and torso are beneficial for improving circulation.

Can stretching be a substitute for aerobic exercise?

Stretching can improve heart health, but it should not be considered a substitute for aerobic exercise, which is necessary for a healthy heart. A combination of stretching and aerobic exercise is best for overall heart health.

Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:

Stress impact on Women’s Heart | Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation | Arrhythmia CausesAquatic Exercise for Heart Health | Yoga for Heart HealthAFib Symptoms | Average heart Rate While Running | Acid Reflux | Increased Heart Rate | Heart Rate Monitor Device

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The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) released guidelines for sports and physical activity for individuals with heart disease in 2020. These guidelines, published in the European Heart Journal (Ref. Link), aim to promote exercise as a preventative measure for heart disease and as a means of reducing premature death in those with established heart disease. 

The ESC recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise for individuals with heart disease, as well as strength-building exercise for those who are obese or have high blood pressure or diabetes. The guidelines also caution that individuals with advanced heart disease or those who are completely inactive should consult their doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. The study includes this diagram that features sporting disciplines in relation to the predominant components (skill, power, mixed, and endurance) and intensity of exercise. 

 

 

Guidelines and Precautions for Exercise in Individuals with Heart Failure

  • Be mindful of the type of exercises you perform and avoid isometric exercises such as pushups and situps as they involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.
  • Consult with your doctor before engaging in outdoor exercises during extreme weather conditions such as hot, cold or humid weather, as high humidity may cause you to tire more quickly and extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult and cause chest pain. Indoor activities such as mall walking or using a treadmill may be more suitable.
  • Drink water regularly, but avoid overhydration, as it is important to stay hydrated, especially on hot days, but be sure to check with your doctor first.
  • If your exercise program has been disrupted for more than a few days, it’s essential to ease back into the routine, by starting with a reduced level of activity, gradually increasing it until you are back to your original level.
  • Cease your exercise routine if you experience excessive fatigue or difficulty breathing. Consult your doctor to discuss these symptoms or schedule an appointment for evaluation.
  • Avoid exercising if you are feeling unwell or have recently been ill. Wait until all symptoms have subsided before restarting your exercise program. If unsure, consult with your doctor first.
  • If you have persistent shortness of breath, rest and seek medical attention. Your doctor may adjust your medications, diet, or fluid restrictions.
  • Stop exercise immediately if you experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations. Check your pulse after resting for 15 minutes. If it is above 120 beats per minute at rest, seek medical attention. Invest in a good heart rate monitor such as the Frontier X2 to ensure that you track your heart rate and ECG continuously while exercising. 
  • Do not ignore any pain you may experience during exercise. If you experience chest pain or pain in any other part of the body, stop the activity immediately. Continuing to exercise while in pain may cause stress or damage to the joints.

 

Active Living Plan With Heart Disease: Walking Program 

Walking is a great way to start an exercise program for many people. A walking program can include a variety of different locations such as a hallway, driveway, mall, or a block. Start with a short duration of 10 minutes, and remember to begin slowly and easily. It may be necessary to plan for rest areas or places to sit along the way. The below program can also be applied to other forms of exercise such as biking, stationary biking, water walking and swimming.

Week 1:

  • Every other day
    • Training period: 10-minute walk at an easy pace

Week 2:

  • Every other day
    • Warm up: 5-minute easy walk
    • Training period: 10-minute walk at a faster pace
    • Cool down: 5-minute easy walk

Week 3:

  • Four times a week
    • Warm up: 5-minute easy walk
    • Training period: 15-minute walk at a faster pace
    • Cool down: 5-minute easy walk and stretching

Week 4:

  • Four times a week
    • Warm up: 5-minute easy walk
    • Training period: 20-minute walk at a faster pace
    • Cool down: 5-minute easy walk and stretching

Weeks 5-6:

  • At least five days a week
    • Warm up: 10-minute easy walk
    • Training period: 25-30 minute walk at a faster pace, pumping or swinging arms, and walking up gentle hills, leaning slightly forward.
    • Cool down: 5-minute easy walk and stretching for each walk.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of exercise are safe for individuals with heart disease?

Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and low-impact aerobics are typically safe for individuals with heart disease. It’s important to consult your doctor to determine what types of exercise are best for you and what modifications may be necessary.

How often should I exercise if I have heart disease?

Individuals with heart disease should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. It’s also recommended to include strength-building exercises at least two days a week.

How do I know if I’m exercising at the right intensity?

Exercising at the right intensity means that you are able to talk while exercising, but not sing. A good way to gauge your intensity level is to use the “talk test.” If you can hold a conversation while exercising, you’re probably working at a moderate intensity.

What should I do if I experience chest pain or other symptoms during exercise?

If you experience chest pain or other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or palpitations during exercise, it’s important to stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Is it safe to participate in competitive sports if I have heart disease?

The safety of participating in competitive sports depends on the type and severity of heart disease. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine if competitive sports are appropriate for you and what modifications may be necessary. Individuals with advanced heart disease or those who are completely inactive should consult their doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.

Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:

Healthy Heart Exercise | Arrhythmia Symptoms | Reasons for Heart Palpitations | Heart Rate Zones | Low Resting Heart Rate | Signs of Heart AttackStress Test for Heart | Arrhythmia Causes | Low Carb Diet | Heart Rate Monitor

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Does cold weather impact your heart health?

Many of us are not accustomed to the physical demands of strenuous outdoor activities and may be unaware of the potential dangers of cold weather. Winter sports enthusiasts who do not take the necessary precautions may fall victim to accidental hypothermia. People with coronary heart disease often experience angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort) in cold weather. In addition to cold temperatures, high winds, snow, and rain can also cause heat loss. Wind is particularly dangerous as it removes the layer of warm air around the body. Dampness also causes the body to lose heat more quickly than in dry conditions. With winter comes a drop in temperature that can impact your blood flow and add strain to your heart. Read on to find out more about the impact of cold weather on your heart.

How does cold weather affect your heart?

Cold weather can cause the blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. It can cause an increase in blood pressure as well, which can put extra strain on the heart. Anyone with an existing heart condition such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, or arrhythmia are more susceptible to cold weather’s effects on the heart. Cold air can cause airway constriction in people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, which can lead to increased stress on the heart. Physical activity in cold weather can be dangerous for some people, as it may cause chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of heart disease. It’s important to check with your doctor before starting any physical activity in cold weather. People with heart conditions should be mindful of how the weather affects them and take precautions such as wearing warm clothing, staying dry and avoiding prolonged exposure to cold weather. It’s important that you are  aware of the signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, and arm or jaw pain, and seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms occur.

What can you do to protect your heart in winter?

Winter can bring with it certain lifestyle choices that can put you at risk for heart disease. The temptation to stay indoors, indulge in comfort foods and consume more alcohol can all contribute to unhealthy changes in weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, which can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attacks. The cold weather may discourage outdoor activities and physical exercise, which is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Additionally, the holiday season often comes with more social gatherings and events that can lead to overindulging in food and alcohol. It’s important to make mindful choices and maintain a balance during the winter season to ensure a healthy heart.

One way to protect your heart during the winter months is to maintain a warm living environment. Keep the room where you spend most of your time at a temperature of at least 18°C. To stay warm, wear multiple layers of clothing, including socks, jumpers and blankets. Utilising a hot water bottle or electric blanket can help keep you warm at night. To keep the heat in, try budget-friendly options like draft stoppers and insulating window coverings. Additionally, wearing a hat, scarf and gloves can help maintain your core body temperature.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the ways that cold weather can increase my risk of heart disease?

Cold weather can cause blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. It can also increase blood pressure and put extra strain on the heart. Cold weather can also cause the heart to work harder to maintain body temperature, which can increase the risk of a heart attack.

How does cold weather affect individuals who already have heart conditions?

Individuals who have existing heart conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, or arrhythmia are more susceptible to cold weather’s effects on the heart. Cold weather can also increase the risk of blood clots forming in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

What are some things that I can do to protect my heart during the winter months?

To protect your heart during the winter months, you can maintain a warm living environment, wear multiple layers of clothing, stay active indoors, and eat warming meals and healthy hot drinks to keep your body energised. If you have angina (chest pain), wearing a scarf around your mouth and nose or a face mask can help limit symptoms in cold weather.

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The required amount of sleep varies from person to person, but most adults need 7-9 hours per night to function optimally. A lack of sleep can negatively impacts your physical and mental health, weaken your immune system, increase your risk of heart disease, and even shorten your lifespan. It has been found that Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is lower during sleep compared to when an individual is awake, and it decreases further as a person progresses from light to deep sleep. Additionally, research has shown that HRV is influenced by the quality and duration of sleep. Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep have been associated with lower HRV, while adequate sleep has been linked to higher HRV. Some studies have also suggested the inverse relationship, stating that HRV may also be a predictor of sleep quality, with lower HRV being associated with poor sleep quality and higher HRV being associated with better sleep quality.

Ref. Link

 

What is a Good HRV During Sleep?

The adult heart rate is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute when at rest. As you fall asleep, your heart rate slows down to its resting rate, the body’s core temperature decreases, and other muscles relax. In deeper sleep stages your resting heart rate may decrease by about 20 to 30 percent. Heart rate variability (HRV) changes as you progress through different sleep stages. During non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, overall HRV generally decreases, although the variance between individual beats can increase. In contrast, during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, overall HRV increases while beat-to-beat changes decrease. HRV is often used as a marker of sleep quality and has been linked to various health outcomes. Poor sleep quality, high sleep onset latency, and the use of sleep medication have all been associated with higher heart rate and lower HRV. On the other hand, higher HRV during wakefulness has been tied to better sleep efficiency and overall sleep quality. Sleep deprivation and certain sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, have also been linked to changes in HRV.

Can a lack of sleep affect HRV?

Poor sleep quality can disrupt the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, leading to an imbalance in HRV. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a decrease in HRV, which may increase the risk of certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Conversely, getting enough quality sleep can improve HRV and overall health. It is important to prioritize sleep and practice good sleep hygiene to help maintain healthy HRV levels.

People with insomnia experience elevated sympathetic activity both during night and day. When the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, the heart rate increases and the HRV decreases. During sleep deprivation, this sympatho-vagal balance shifts towards sympathetic dominance. Insufficient sleep impairs the nervous system’s ability to shift into rest mode, even at night and despite feeling exhausted. HRV is used as an indicator to determine sleep quality. According to a study published in 2013, higher HRV during wakefulness is linked to better sleep quality, and lower HRV indicates inadequate sleep quality.

How to Increase your HRV During Sleep 

There are several ways to increase heart rate variability (HRV) during sleep:

  1. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga before bed to help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
  2. Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep.
  4. Create a comfortable sleep environment by keeping the room dark, cool, and quiet, while using a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  5. Engage in physical activity during the day to improve sleep quality and HRV.
  6. Avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
  7. Consider trying natural remedies such as melatonin or valerian root to help improve sleep quality.

HRV and Sleep: How Are They connected?

There is a complex, two-way relationship between the autonomic nervous system and sleep. The activity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) influences both your ability to fall asleep and how well you sleep throughout the night. In turn, the quantity and quality of your sleep has an impact on how well your autonomic nervous system works in managing stress, regulating your cardiovascular activity, and regulating hormones and physiologic function. Here are some key points to understand about how the ANS functions and how HRV changes while sleeping:

  • During sleep, both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are active, and their levels of activity fluctuate throughout the night.
  • Falling asleep is linked to increased parasympathetic activity. You will be in ‘rest and digest’ mode to drift off into sleep.
  • In the Non-REM (Rapid eye movement) stage, the parasympathetic system(resting) continues to dominate. Non-REM sleep is associated with higher HRV.
  • In REM (Rapid eye movement)  sleep, the sympathetic system(stimulating) becomes more active. HRV is usually low and variable in this stage.
  • Disturbed sleep or waking up through the night activates the sympathetic system which raises your blood pressure and heart rate while decreasing HRV.
  • A typical night of 7 hours of sleep consists of 4-5 sleep cycles, with each cycle containing non-REM and REM sleep stages. During sleep, ANS activity is complex and dynamic, and HRV is continuously shifting.

Poor quality or insufficient sleep causes a decrease in HRV which can lead to increased risks for hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and other cardiovascular diseases. To ensure optimal HRV, it’s important to get enough quality sleep every night by limiting blue light exposure before bedtime, avoiding caffeine late in the day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and practicing mindfulness or meditation before bedtime. If you suspect that there may be underlying medical causes for your insomnia or difficulty sleeping through the night speak with your doctor about potential treatments or medications that might help.

Finally, pair your new understanding of how sleep affects your HRV with the use of a heart monitoring device to know exactly how you’re impacting your heart. Purchase the revolutionary Frontier X2 and be on your way to a healthier tomorrow.

 

FAQs:

What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation activates the sympathetic nervous system (stimulating) both during sleep and daytime. This leads to irritability, stress, an increase in heart rate, and a decrease in HRV. 

How can I measure my HRV?

There are several ways to measure HRV, including the following:

  • Wearable devices: Many fitness trackers and smartwatches have built-in HRV sensors that can measure your HRV throughout the day.
  • Smartphone apps: There are numerous apps available for both iOS and Android devices that use the phone’s camera or a separate chest strap to measure HRV.
  • ECG/EKG machines: Electrocardiograph (ECG or EKG) machines, which are used to measure the electrical activity of the heart, can also be used to measure HRV. These machines are often used in hospitals or medical offices, but there are also portable ECG/EKG devices that can be used at home.
  • Finger sensors: Some devices use sensors that attach to your finger to measure HRV       

How can I get more sleep?

You can get more sleep by following a daily sleep routine, using a comfortable mattress, and by incorporating meditation and yoga into your daily routine.

How does sleep deprivation affect HRV?

Yes, sleep deprivation lowers HRV as the sympathetic system is activated.

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Maintaining good sleep hygiene is not only beneficial for your energy levels and mood, but it can also lower your risk of heart failure. A recent study (Ref. Link) found that adults with healthy sleep patterns had a 42% lower risk of developing heart failure, in comparison with adults with unhealthy sleep patterns after controlling other risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, medication use, and genetic variations.

Details on The Study on Sleep Habits and Heart Health

During the study, researchers analysed sleep quality and overall sleep patterns in relation to the risk of heart failure. Measures of sleep quality included duration, insomnia, and snoring, as well as other factors such as being an early bird or night owl and experiencing daytime sleepiness. The researchers found that after adjusting for other risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, medication use, and genetic variations, participants with the healthiest sleep patterns had a 42% lower risk of heart failure compared to those with unhealthy sleep patterns. 

The risk of heart failure was also found to be independently associated with being an early riser, sleeping 7-8 hours per day, not experiencing frequent insomnia, and not experiencing daytime sleepiness. These findings suggest that improving overall sleep patterns may help prevent heart failure. It’s important to note that the sleep behaviours of participants were self-reported and that other unmeasured or unknown factors may have influenced the results.

How Is Sleep Related to Heart Failure?

There is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and heart failure. People with heart failure are more likely to have sleep problems, and sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and insomnia can worsen heart failure symptoms.  Heart failure can cause sleep problems, and complications of heart failure can affect sleep quality. For example, chest pain and discomfort can make it difficult to relax and sleep, and lying in bed may cause shortness of breath. Additionally, you may need to get up during the night to urinate. 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition that occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat relaxes and blocks the airway during sleep. This causes the brain to signal the throat muscles to contract and open the airway, which can happen multiple times per night. These episodes can release stress hormones that raise the heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure or worsening existing heart failure. Researchers have also found a strong link between insomnia and the risk of heart failure, as insomnia may trigger the body’s stress response and weaken the heart over time.

What Are the Sleep Habits That Can Reduce The Risk Of Heart Failure?

There are several steps you can take to improve your sleep habits:

  1. Expose yourself to bright light during the day, especially if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder. However, limit your exposure to blue light at night as it can disrupt your body’s ability to sleep.
  2. Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day, as it can worsen sleep quality and lead to sleep deprivation.
  3. Try to be consistent with your sleep and wake-up times to align your body’s circadian rhythm.
  4. Consider taking supplements to help with relaxation and improve sleep quality.
  5. Avoid drinking too much alcohol at night, as it can reduce melatonin production and lead to disturbed sleep patterns.
  6. Avoid consuming a large meal before bed, as it can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption.
  7. Taking a relaxing bath before bed may help improve your sleep quality.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much sleep do I need to maintain good heart health? 

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maintain good heart health.

What are some good sleep habits for heart health? 

Some good sleep habits for heart health include:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Avoiding screens and bright lights before bed
  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment (e.g. maintaining a cool, dark, and quiet room)
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress through techniques such as meditation or deep breathing

Can poor sleep increase my risk of heart disease? 

Yes, poor sleep habits can increase the risk of heart disease. Lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, increased stress hormones, and a weakened immune system, all of which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Can heart disease cause sleep problems? 

Yes, heart disease can cause sleep problems. For example, people with heart failure may experience difficulty breathing or chest discomfort while lying in bed, which can make it difficult to sleep. Additionally, some medications used to treat heart disease may cause sleep problems.

Can treating sleep problems improve heart health? 

Yes, treating sleep problems can improve heart health. For example, treating sleep apnea can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Improving sleep quality and duration may also help lower the risk of heart disease.

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