For the total U.S. population, heart disease has been the leading cause of death for decades. The CDC published a study noting that approximately 80% of heart disease and stroke diagnoses can be prevented. Take a second to take that in. At least 800,000 American deaths could be prevented each year. Healthy habits and lifestyle choices can significantly reduce a person’s chances of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke.
The good news is that majority of heart diseases are preventable, and to some extent reversible through lifestyle choices – not limited to quitting smoking, eating well and reducing stress. But also, by getting physically active. For example, just the implementation of a walking program can reduce the chance of a stroke by 46%. Below are three ways a physical therapist can assist you in the prevention of heart disease.
Number 1- Improving your cardiovascular fitness. Not surprised there, right? The American College of Sports Medicine & the American Heart Association both recommends that adults should be achieving five 30-minute moderate intensity cardio sessions per week. This type of exercise can include brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, dancing or something else you might enjoy that will get your heart pumping. By implementing and maintaining your cardio regimen you in turn strengthen your heart & its vessels, improve oxygen circulation, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and finally, reduce your overall risk of heart disease and stroke.
Number 2- Improve your overall body composition. This means decreasing your overall body fat percentage and increasing your lean body mass. How? Through resistive strength training. Strength training will decrease the amount of visceral fat, which is the fat around your organs. Also decreasing your body fat percentage increases your metabolic rate and decreases your risk of developing obesity. According to American College of Sports Medicine, adults are recommended to perform two strength training bouts twice a week. A physical therapist can assist in designing, teaching and helping you implement your own strength training regimen.
Number 3- Decrease your pain. Injuries and chronic pain can be a big limiter for adults to become and remain active. Physical therapists are trained to diagnosis and treat musculoskeletal injuries and other physical impairments. A physical therapist can design a cardiovascular & strength training program that can not only increase your heart health; but also treat current injuries and prevent future impairments.
Overall, there is an abundance of evidence supporting therapeutic exercise and planning from a physical therapist to be beneficial for those with heart disease; and for those looking to prevent it. You can take steps now to improve your health, longevity and quality of life through exercise.
**This is not intended to advise any individuals on beginning a new exercise plan. Always check with your physician before starting a new exercise program.