Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2020 at 06:27 pm

How to beat heart disease

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease (CVD), is the single largest cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for 18 million deaths per year globally.

The good news is that you can use exercise to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

Understanding heart disease

The main component of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), a progressive, chronic disease which affects the inner lining of the coronary arteries.

With CAD, a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque narrows the arteries and obstructs normal blood flow. Atherosclerotic plaque can be either active and unstable, or quiet and stable. Unstable plaques can tear, rupture or swell and led to a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction).

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Who has a high risk of developing heart disease?

People who are generally at a higher risk for CVD are above the age of 50 years and have a family history of premature CVD (male before 55 years of age, female before 60 years).

While there’s little we can do for certain risk factors, like age, gender and family history, positive lifestyle changes can help eliminate modifiable risk factors like obesity, smoking, lifestyle related high cholesterol levels and hypertension, type-2 diabetes and a lack of exercise.

Reduce your risk

Exercise and a healthy diet are considered the two most important components of lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

A regular exercise routine can help you reduce high blood pressure, improve resting heart rate, lower cholesterol levels, manage stress and anxiety, boost weight loss and improved heart and lung function.

How much exercise do you need?

If you have any of the risk factors for heart disease, it’s recommended to consult a doctor before embarking on any kind of exercise programme. You may also benefit from having a biokineticist prepare a tailored, scientifically based exercise programme to suit your condition and needs.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise includes large muscle activities and helps increase aerobic capacity. The benefits increase decreased blood pressure and heart rate, reduced submaximal myocardial (heart) VO2 demand and a decrease in CAD risk factors.

  • Intensity: RPE* 11-16/20
  • Frequency: A minimum of three days per week
  • Duration: 20- to 60-minute sessions (which can be accumulated throughout the day) with five to 10 minutes of warm-up and cool-down activities

Strength training

Strength training helps increase muscle strength and endurance.

  • Intensity: RPE 11-16/20 with a light-to-medium weight (gradually increase resistance over time)
  • Frequency: Two to three days per week
  • Duration: Two to four sets of 12-15 repetitions or eight to 10 different exercises

Flexibility training

Working on flexibility helps increase upper and lower body range of motion (ROM), improve joint ROM and decreases the risk of injury

  • Intensity and duration: Static stretches (hold for 20 to 30 sec)
  • Frequency: Three to five days per week

*RPE = rating of perceived exertion (how tiring/hard the exercise feels to you). Scale from 6 to 20. 7= very, very light; 9= very light; 11= fairly light; 13= somewhat hard; 15=hard; 17= very hard; 19= very, very hard.

Written by Kelly Kaulback, biokineticist from the University of Pretoria’s Institute for Sport Research.

Edited by All4Women’s health editor, Monique Warner.

References on next page

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.