Our heart is a very important organ. It is a muscular organ about the size of a fist, located just behind and slightly left of the breastbone. The heart pumps blood through a network of arteries and veins that make up the cardiovascular system.
If it stops or if something hinders its activity, we have a serious problem!
What is helpful to heart health?
- Healthy diet – we ideally want to reduce our consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars and pay attention to the type and quantity of fats we consume
- Optimal body weight
- Managing blood pressure
- Proper hydration when exercising – water and electrolytes
What is not good for the health of our hearts?
- Too much salt
- Too many unhealthy fats – found predominantly in junk foods and fast foods
- Exercising when you’re sick or not feeling well or over-execrcising
- Taking steroid medications – especially if unmonitored
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Extreme stress
One long-term study found that people who over-exercised could be at a higher risk of early heart disease. Because the heart is a muscle it can become fatigued when its over-worked.
Other research has linked long-term vigorous exercise to higher levels of heart muscle damage, irregular heartbeat, and other heart issues. Extreme exercise, training and competing in endurance events increases cortisol, a stress hormone and can cause oxidative stress which can lead to heart damage and rhythm disorders. People with genetic risk factors are especially vulnerable. Exercising too soon after being sick can also put more pressure on the heart and can cause damage to the heart muscle in some people.
About 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week is recommended. That equates to about 30 minutes 5 x per week or 45 minutes 3 – 4 times per week. Moderate exercise includes activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, cycling or swimming. In general, moderate activities should allow for you to carry on a conversation while you are active.
If you have symptoms, a family or personal history of a heart condition, or risk factors for heart disease, check with your doctor before starting or changing an exercise regimen.
Don’t give up exercising, there are still many more benefits than not exercising at all, but be responsible and have regular check up’s if necessary.
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 28 September 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.