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Posts Tagged ‘exercise for heart health’

Start a New Walking Program

To show your support of American Heart Association, take a walk and share your photos on social media with #AHALaceUp.

To show your support of American Heart Association, take a walk and share your photos on social media with #AHALaceUp.

Recent studies have shown an increase of inactive adults in the United States. This is a problem when you consider that physical inactivity doubles the risk of heart disease. But, it’s a problem that can be fixed.

Walking for as few as 30 minutes a day, five days a week not only provides heart health benefits, but it reduces the risk of all death by all causes by 58 percent.

To conquer inactivity and celebrate National Walking Day, Cooper Fitness Center Dallas Professional Fitness Trainer April Swales offers advice on how you can start a walking program. Follow these tips to a fit, healthy self.

Getting Started
If you are going from a sedentary lifestyle to a regular walking routine, begin with short walks for a limited amount of time. For instance, start by walking for ten minutes at a time and work your way up from that time period.

Stepping It Up
One shoe does not fit all. Before beginning a new walking program, it is valuable to invest in a good pair of walking or running shoes.

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can visit stores like RunOn or Luke’s Locker to have a specialist analyze your foot and the way that you step. From that point, they can fit you with a shoe that complements your foot’s shape and pronation.

Going the Distance
Rather than focusing on the distance traveled, think about how long you have actually spent walking. You do not want to increase your distance too quickly because it could result in negative side effects. Instead, each day add on a few more minutes to your walking routine.

Fit in Hydration
It is important to stay hydrated during your workouts. Water is important for every single cell function in your body. Staying hydrated will keep your body functioning as it should, so you can make the most out of every workout.

Adding Intensity
Once you reach an intermediate level of fitness, you can begin to take your workouts up a notch. You can add intensity by warming up with dynamic stretches, keep a challenging pace or adding interval training to your walking workout.

Find a Walking Path
The American Heart Association has created a list of walking paths. From parks to shopping malls, check out this list of American Heart Association-designed walking paths across the country. And when you’re traveling, you can find a local path to take and keep on your route to healthy living.

Walking is the single most effective form of exercise to achieve heart health, and it is the simplest way to start and continue a fitness journey. Look for ways to incorporate more walking into your day, whether it’s parking the car father away from your destination or going for a family walk after dinner.

For more information on Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, click here or call 972.233.4832.

Treadmill Stress Test at Cooper Clinic

March 24, 2014 3 comments

Did you know that more than 100,000 patients have done the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic? A few weeks ago we began a blog series to dive into each of the six components of Cooper Clinic’s comprehensive preventive exam. To get caught up, read about the first two components.

  1. Medical Exam & Counseling
  2. Laboratory Analysis
  3. Cardiovascular Screening
  4. Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) Scan
  5. Skin Cancer Screening
  6. Nutrition Consultation

Component #3: Cardiovascular Screening

Since Cooper Clinic opened in 1970, we have used the treadmill stress test to help detect heart artery blockages and assess patients’ overall risk of developing heart disease in the future. Dr. Cooper was the first physician in Dallas to routinely use the treadmill stress test for this purpose. And since then our research has proven the importance of having this test done annually.

The stress test is a standardized walking or cycling test used to determine cardiovascular fitness, assess functional capacity and the conduction system of the heart and identify possible underlying coronary artery disease. Before, during and after the stress test, the electrocardiogram (EKG) is monitored continuously and blood pressure is measured frequently to assess the cardiovascular response to exercise.

On the Treadmill

At Cooper Clinic we use a modified Balke treadmill protocol for the treadmill stress test. With this protocol, the treadmill speed remains at 3.3 mph. We increase the work of the heart by adding elevation.

  • First minute—Zero percent elevation
  • Second minute—Two percent elevation
  • Third minute—Three percent elevation

After the second minute, we increase the elevation by one percent for each minute up to a maximal incline of 25 percent. As you can imagine, that is a pretty steep hill! For those few individuals who can exercise beyond 25 minutes, the incline stays at 25 percent and then the speed increases 0.2 mph/minute until exhaustion. We use this protocol rather than the Bruce protocol, which is used in most cardiology offices for the diagnosis of coronary blockages. Why? Because the Balke treadmill protocol has a more gradual increase in cardiac workload so that even our most unfit patients can participate to provide the data to write an exercise prescription.

How Performance Provides Results

Patients will often ask, ‘how long do I need to walk on the treadmill?’ In order to obtain an adequate test for the diagnosis of coronary blockages, a patient should reach a heart rate of at least 85 percent of their predicted maximal heart rate. The predicted maximal heart rate is estimated using the equation “220 minus age”. For example, if you are 50 years old, your predicted maximal heart rate is 220-50 or 170 beats per minute. However, we often exercise patients beyond this threshold value of 85 percent of predicted maximal heart rate because we stop the treadmill based on the patient’s exertion level rather than a predetermined heart rate. For many of our very fit patients, if we stopped the test when their heart rate reached 85 percent of their predicted maximal heart rate, we would have a result that didn’t reflect how hard they work when they exercise and we couldn’t create a realistic exercise prescription for them.

Scientifically Proven

A recent study from Cooper Clinic involving 25,642 individuals followed for 7.2 years, showed that in addition to assessing changes on the EKG during a stress test, other non-EKG measures helped predict the risk of death from all causes or from cardiovascular disease. Including:

  • Functional capacity (how long you exercised on the treadmill)
  • Resting heart rate
  • If the heart rate increased appropriately during exercise
  • How fast the heart rate recovered after exercise

Unlike its use in other settings, the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic is used as an objective way to measure fitness. Sure, we can ask you how often you exercise; we can ask you how hard you work during exercise, but nothing provides a real measure of fitness like your performance on the treadmill.

In 1989, a landmark paper from The Cooper Institute 501(c)(3) nonprofit examined 10,224 men and 3,120 women who had undergone fitness (treadmill) testing. After a follow-up of slightly more than eight years, research showed the risk of death from any cause decreased as fitness increased in both men and women. In addition, cardiovascular and cancer death rates were lower among the higher fit individuals.

Since that time, numerous scientific publications from The Cooper Institute have demonstrated the benefits of being fit and the risks of being unfit:

  • Men who maintained or improved their fitness were less likely to die from anything or from cardiovascular disease versus the unfit men who remained unfit over time.
  • The health benefits of fitness include reduced risk for developing risk factors for heart disease including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • The risk of low fitness approaches the risk of smoking.
  • Being fit reduces the risk of stroke and depression.
  • Being fit reduces the risk of dying from lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

Most recently, The Cooper Institute has shown that fitness at mid-life (average age in the upper 40s) impacts health—including the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease—and is a predictor of health care costs in later life. The average follow-up was between 24-26 years.

Given the proven health benefits of fitness, most experts recommend that a fitness evaluation should be part of routine preventive care as an independent “vital sign” that can be directly modified by routine physical activity. At Cooper Clinic, we do exactly that. Once we measure your fitness, we can use that information to create an individualized exercise prescription to improve your fitness or keep you fit.

To learn more about the treadmill stress test at Cooper Clinic, click here.

How Much Running is Too Much?

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Excessive RunningResearch from The Cooper Institute has shown that the value of exercise is overwhelmingly good; however, studies also show that more is not always better. 

How much running is too much? This a very controversial question, but Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, has long said that if you are running more than 15 miles a week, you are doing it for a reason other than health. When you run beyond 15 miles a week, there is a fairly sharp increase of muscular skeletal problems in areas such as your knees and hips.

If you are training for a vigorous physical activity like endurance running, it’s important to make sure that you are not damaging your body tissues.  When you are an endurance athlete, your body can be compromised from oxidative stress as you lose essential nutrients through sweat and increased oxygen consumption. When this occurs, your body can begin to produce dangerous free radicals, which are a by-product from the metabolism of oxygen. An increase in these free radicals throughout your body can result in soreness, DNA damage, cancer, muscle tissue damage and other degenerative diseases.

Running 30+ miles per week may be linked to scarring of the heart due to a lack of oxygen and free radical damage. If you’re running this much, Dr. Cooper says it is imperative that you supplement your body with the proper nutrients to suppress any DNA damage from free radicals. Elite athletes can benefit by taking the proper dosages of vitamins E, C and beta carotene. Dr. Cooper recommends taking 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E twice a day to decrease risks associated with excess running. The Cooper Complete Elite Athlete formula provides the nutrients needed to suppress free radical damage.

Over the years, there have been reports of sudden deaths while endurance athletes were running. Dr. Cooper stresses that this is a rarity, because the majority of athletes who suddenly die while running often have an underlying congenital heart defect. This defect can typically be detected from an EKG.

Our bodies were designed to be fit and active. When you put this topic into perspective, you can clearly see that the proven benefits of exercise outweigh the risks associated it. If you are an endurance athlete, consult your physician to ensure that you are receiving the proper supplementation to stay healthy while you train.

For more information, read The Dallas Morning Newsrecent article where Dr. Cooper discussed this topic or you can view Dr. Cooper’s statement on excessive exercise that he published as a result a Wall Street Journal article on endurance sports.