A lot has changed since the American Heart Association last changed its position on exercise for heart patients either before or after a cardiac incident. Research at the University of Vermont, including patients recovering at Fletcher Allen Health Care's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center in South Burlington, now shows that rigorous activity that more effectively burns calories helps overweight heart patients reduce their risk of a repeat incident.
Doctors now say it's also important to target exercise for specific outcomes, whether it's for a woman, a man, someone with low risk or someone at high risk of heart problems.
UVM professor Dr. Philip Ades runs Fletcher Allen's cardiac rehab program. He says one of the goals of the American Heart Association's new position on exercise training is to remove barriers for people to become more physically active.
"Beforehand if you were overweight or had multiple cardiac risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure there was the general feeling that you needed to see a doctor before you take on an exercise program. And many people would just sort of say, 'Well, I don't want to see the doctor. There's a co-pay; I'm busy.' So, in the end they wouldn't see the doctor and they wouldn't exercise. So, now we're trying to make that easier for people to embark on exercise, let your doctor know at the next visit," Ades said.
Ades helped author the new AHA position. He says heart patients should view exercise as a dose of almost daily medication. It's a prescription 10 years in the works.
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