Tag Archives: heart health

Blog Your Heart Out

Hi friends!

As some of you may know, I work as a Clinical Exercise Specialist in Cardiac Rehabilitation. When I went into this profession, I had no real reason. My family does not have a strong history of heart disease. I just liked exercise, talking about exercise and counseling others on how to live a healthier life. Over the years, my reasons have changed. One of the big reasons are the people who become my patients that make me enjoy my job.

Today I’m Blogging My Heart Out to raise awareness for this disease that has touched all of us at some point.

When someone has a heart event, often times they feel scared, alone and not sure of what the future holds for them. Cardiac Rehabilitation is medically supervised program to help patients recover quickly and improve their overall physical, mental, and social functioning after an event. Essentially, it’s an exercise, education and support program to help patients learn how to live a healthier life. Research shows that patients who participate in Cardiac Rehab live longer and have a better quality of life than those that don’t.

I’ve seen a wide range of people who have been affected by heart disease whether it’s from Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG), Myocardial Infarction (MI), Stable Angina, Cardiomyopathy, or Valve Replacement/Repair. When I first entered the field 10+ years ago, most of my patients were at least 70 and older. While we still see older patients, we have also begun to see people in their 30s and 40s. One thing that has not changed over the years, is the amount of women who attend Cardiac Rehab after their event.

Heart disease is the number killer of women.

Yet men are still the predominate participant in rehab. Why is that? There are numerous reasons why this might be. Physicians not referring, insurance coverage (or lack of), and being afraid to exercise. Statistics show that under 20% of those eligible ever go to rehab, and women and minorities go less often than white men. We need to promote cardiac rehab for everyone.

heart - happyfitmama.comSo what can you do to help your friends, family and community know that such a resource exists for people with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease? Spread the word about the facts!

  • Many physicians are unaware of the known benefits of cardiac rehab. Primary care physicians too often believe their active or older patients won’t benefit.
  • Rehab patients not only live longer, but they have a better quality of life.
  • Rehab also offers social and psychological benefits no matter what your age.
  • Supervised rehab is safe, even for the very old.

Being diagnosed with cardiac disease is scary but the good news is you’re not alone. There are plenty of resources to help modify risk factors to live a healthier life.

For more information about heart disease, please check out the following links:

Go Red For Women Campaign

American Heart Association


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Go Red for Women + The Countdown Workout

Hi everyone! Happy Friday!

Today isn’t any old Friday. It’s Go Red for Women Day. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and more deadly than any form of cancer. In an effort to raise awareness, the American Heart Association started the Go Red campaign a few years ago.

Go Red for Women Red Dress - happyfitmama.com

Heart disease is near and dear to my heart (pun intended) since I work with cardiac patients daily. I don’t talk about my job that much on here due to patient confidentiality laws but it’s something that I feel strongly about. Don’t think heart disease is something that only happens as you get older. Over the years, the population that I see in rehab has changed dramatically. No longer is it only the 80 year old Grandpa or Grandma. I’ve seen patients in their 20s and 30s who are of normal weight, active and eat well. Know your risk factors and don’t deny your symptoms.

And for women, your symptoms may not be the typical movie chest clutching “I’m having a heart attack” signs. They can be:

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Pain in arm, neck, jaw or back
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness
  • Cold, clammy sweating
  • Fatigue with doing even little activity

I’m wearing red today for all women but also for a special blogger friend, Krysten. She’s having more surgery for her robot heart today…such a strong, inspiring woman. Best of luck to her and a speedy recovery!

The Countdown

These days I’m sticking with my plan of strength, yoga and cross training for optimizing my health and staying injury free. I do not want to be sidelined again even if it is 2 weeks! I’ve been in my workout “lab” (i.e. basement) cooking up some great workouts. Here’s one I did recently that left me sweating and feeling strong!

The Countdown Workout - happyfitmama.comThis workout is less than 15 minutes. Repeat countdown 2-3x times if you want more of a workout (or if your legs can handle it!).

Have a great weekend everyone! Apparently, I’m doing the Mid Winter Classic 10 Miler on Sunday. How did that sneak up on me???


Give Your Heart Some Love

Women and Heart Disease

All month I have been posting heart healthy factoids since February is Heart Month.  However, I feel I need to devote a whole post to a very important topic.  Women and heart disease.  Did you know heart disease is the number one killer of women?  Most women fear breast cancer.  They routinely get their mammograms and do self checks each month.  But what about your heart?  Most women, especially younger women, think heart disease is something you don’t have to think about till you are at least 70.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I have worked in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years.  During that time, there has been an increase of younger people having coronary artery bypass grafting(CABG), heart attacks, and stenting.  The youngest patient I ever had was in her late 20s.  It was scary that she was actually younger than me!  I’ve also had patients who were very fit and watched what they ate.  Unfortunately, they picked the wrong parents to hand down their genetic make up.

Physical activity is something that is linked to all the controllable risk factors of heart disease(diabetes, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, etc.).  If you are already active, great!  Keep it up!  Don’t let the daily “to do” list get in the way.  Make time for exercise by scheduling it in like you would a doctor’s appointment.

So what exact exercises should you be doing for your heart?  First up: Cardio.

You should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.   An easy way to remember: 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.  Moderate exercise can be defined as something that gets your pulse and breathing rates up.  If you can sing while exercising, it’s too light!  A brisk walk is considered moderate.  Vigorous exercise is more like running or singles tennis.  You should be able to only speak in phases.

Here’s a great walking workout that can be done on the treadmill.  Modify the speed/incline to meet your needs.  You could easily adapt this for running by increasing the speed.  Click here, here, and here for some more treadmill ideas.

Time Speed Incline
0-5 3-3.5 mph 1%
5-7 4 mph 3%
7-9 4 mph 5%
9-11 4 mph 7%
11-16 3.5 mph 10%
16-21 3.5 mph 8%
21-22 4 mph 4%
22-23 4.3 mph 4%
23-24 4.3 mph 4%
24-25 4 mph 4%
25-26 4.3 mph 4%
26-27 4 mph 4%
27-29 4.3 mph 10%
29-31 3.5 mph 8%
31-33 3.5 mph 6%
33-35 3.7 mph 4%
35-38 3.8 mph 2%
38-40 4.3 mph 2%
40-45 3.5-3.0 mph 0%

Next on the heart healthy agenda?  Strength training.

You should be hitting the weights (or using your own body weight in moves) at least 2-3 times per week. Strength training increases muscular strength, endurance, independence, and ability to perform a large range of activities. It reduces disability and enhances quality of life. Other benefits include increase in bone mineral density and lean body mass.  A well rounded program should involve the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body: chest press, shoulder press, triceps extension, bicep curl, lat pull-down, lower-back extension, abdominal crunch/curl, quad extension, leg press, leg curl, and calf raise.  Aim for 12-15 repetitions, 2-3 sets of each exercise.  Click here, here, here, and here for some workout ideas.

Heart disease is scary but with the proper nutrition and exercise throughout your life, you can find the key on how to love your heart and have it love you right back.

Be sure to check out Breathe Magazine for my full post!

What are YOU doing to protect your heart?