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Signs of Heart Problems During Exercise

Overview

Highlights

  1. Although sweating during exercise is normal, nausea and breaking into a cold sweat are symptoms of a possible problem.
  2. You should never feel dizzy or lightheaded while exercising.
  3. If you use a heart rate monitor when you exercise, aim for 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

A sedentary
lifestyle is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. According to the World Heart Federation, lack of
exercise can increase your risk for heart disease by
50 percent. Other risk
factors include:

  • diet high in saturated fat
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure or hypertension
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • family history of heart disease

Reducing these
risk factors can decrease your chances of heart attack or stroke and your need
for heart-related medical procedures, including bypass surgery.

Staying
active is a great way to reduce your risk for heart disease. Regular, aerobic exercise such as walking has been
proven to improve heart health. It can even reverse some risk factors for
cardiovascular disease by helping with weight loss and lowering blood pressure.

However, exercise can sometimes increase the risk of a heart
attack, especially in those who have heart disease and aren’t monitoring their activity properly.

Learn more
about the signs of heart problems during a workout and what you can do to
prevent and treat them.

Why you should take precautions

Exercise is
vital in helping to prevent heart disease. It’s generally safe for most people, but you should take precautions, especially
if:

  • your
    doctor has told you that you have one or more of the risk factors for heart disease
  • you’ve recently experienced a heart attack or other heart
    problem
  • you’ve been inactive
    previously

People with
heart disease can almost always exercise safely if
they’re evaluated beforehand. However, exercise isn’t appropriate for all people with heart
disease. If you’re new to exercise, the key is to start off slow to
prevent adverse effects. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. You also may need to begin your workout under medical supervision.

Despite these
precautions, it can be difficult for your doctor to predict health
problems that you might experience while exercising. To be safe, familiarize
yourself with symptoms that may suggest harmful
complications. Becoming aware of some typical warning signs of a heart-related
problem could be life-saving.

Signs of heart trouble

Even if you’ve previously had a heart attack,
another one could have entirely different symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately if you
experience any of the
following symptoms.

Chest discomfort

Many people
associate sudden and intense chest pain with heart attack. Some heart
attacks may begin this way. But many begin with a feeling of mild
discomfort, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the
center of the chest. The pain can be subtle and may come and go, so it can
be difficult to tell what’s wrong. Stop exercising and seek medical attention if this symptom lasts for more than a few minutes.

Shortness of breath

A feeling of
unusual breathlessness with chest discomfort during an activity is often a
precursor to a heart attack. This symptom can occur before chest discomfort or may even
occur with no chest discomfort.

Dizziness or light-headedness

While
physical activity may make you feel fatigued, especially if you’re not used to
it, you should never feel dizzy or light-headed while exercising. Take this
warning sign seriously and stop exercising right away.

Heart rhythm abnormalities

The sensation
of your heartbeat skipping, palpitating, or thumping could indicate a
heart-related problem. Seek medical attention if you observe any unusual heart rhythms during
your workout.

Discomfort in other areas of the
body

Heart
problems can cause sensations in other areas of the body besides your chest.
Symptoms can include discomfort, pain, or pressure in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. You might
also experience discomfort radiating from one part of your body to another, such as from your chest, jaw, or neck into
your shoulder, arm, or back.

Unusual sweating

Although
sweating during exercise is normal, nausea and breaking into a cold
sweat are warning signs of a possible problem. Some people who have experienced heart attacks have reported a sense of foreboding or
impending doom.

Call 911

When it comes to dealing with a possible heart
problem, timing is critical. Every second counts. Don’t take a wait-and-see
approach or try to push through your workout. Seek medical
help if you think you might be experiencing any of the warning
signs above.

The American Heart
Association advises waiting no more than a few minutes — five minutes
at most — to call 911. Your heart may stop beating
during a heart attack. Emergency personnel have the knowledge and equipment needed
to get it beating again.

Have someone
else drive you to the hospital immediately if you’re experiencing heart attack symptoms
and can’t call 911. Avoid getting behind the wheel yourself unless there are no other options.

Be prepared

Be prepared to answer the following questions if you find
yourself in the emergency room after experiencing troubling symptoms during
exercise:

  • What
    time did your discomfort or pain begin?
  • What
    were you doing when your discomfort or pain began?
  • Was
    the pain at its most intense level
    immediately, or did it gradually build to a peak?
  • Did
    you notice any additional symptoms in association with the discomfort, such as nausea, sweating, lightheadedness, or palpitations?
  • On
    a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst, what number would you use to
    describe your discomfort at this time?

Answering
these questions to the best of your ability will help your medical team provide
you with the best possible care, which could
save your life.

Outlook

About 600,000 Americans die from
heart disease every year. Exercise is one way to fight this statistic, but it’s
important to do so with care. It can be beneficial to use a heart
rate monitor when you exercise — aim for 60 to 80 percent of your
maximum heart rate. Be sure to report any warning signs of heart problems
during a workout.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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