The heart's job comes to an end when it stops beating, but we won't have to worry about that because by that time we won't feel anything.
How fast or slow we get to the end depends on each person. Some hearts work less and less until they don't work at all due to a chronic disease. In the past, when doctors had to put the cause of death on the death certificate, they would simply write "heart disease" even when the person died from cancer, pneumonia or any kind of infection. It's not exactly a lie _ the heart stopped beating so the person was considered dead, so something was wrong with the heart.
Dying from heart disease, however, is something that is quite sudden. Those who suddenly pass out and pass away usually have their heart to blame. Other health conditions do not cause such a sudden death (I am not talking about bullets and accidents).
It is quite important to be aware if any of your family members have passed away suddenly as it could mean you have a heart disease trait. It could increase a person's chance of dying from narrowed arteries by four to five times.
By family members I mean immediate family such as parents, siblings and children. Don't forget to consider individual risk factors. If there are high risks, any early sign should be treated as soon as possible and a healthy lifestyle is very important, particularly for those with a family history of sudden death.
A healthy lifestyle means steering clear of any risk factor. Non-smokers should make sure they stay away from cigarette smoke as well since second-hand smoke is also as bad. Smokers should, well, quit.
Keep your weight in the healthy range. Your BMI should be between 18.5 and 23. You can alternatively judge from the size of your waist, as your waist line is a good way to determine how much at risk you are. The waistline should not be more than 32 inches for women and 36 inches for men. More than that, you are at risk for having clogged artery as much as those with high cholesterol level.
Everyone should also exercise regularly to stay healthy, at least three or four times a week, 20-30 minutes per session.
Let me stress again that the right way to exercise is to do all three _ stretching, aerobic and resistant training (or weight lifting).
Stretch all your muscles before you exercise to avoid injury. Aerobic exercise helps strengthen the heart and the arteries, but don't forget to warm up to increase your heartbeat slowly. Aerobic exercise will be effective if done longer than 20 minutes.
For your lungs and heart, after aerobic exercise, don't forget to cool down to bring your heart rate down gradually and stretch your muscles again. If you can do all of these, you will get maximum benefits from exercising and reduce the chance of being injured. A lot of people exercise heavily and stop suddenly without cooling down properly, and this abrupt change can actually be fatal.
Another good way to exercise is to increase muscle strength by lifting light weights. Actually, resistance training has many more benefits than just increasing muscle strength. If you are above 45, a diabetic or have more than two risk factors of coronary artery disease, it is essential to consult your doctor or skilled trainer before taking up exercise.
I know a family of four brothers who all have narrowed arteries, and I found that the younger ones have milder symptoms. I also notice that exercising habit runs through families _ either the whole family doesn't exercise or the whole family does exercise. In this family of four brothers, none of them exercised when they were young.
Many patients with very narrowed arteries refuse to go under the knife, usually the older ones. I am left with no choice but to stress the importance of living a healthy life and exercising. They usually listen to me because they know it is their last chance. I am happy to say that many of them who pick up the habit of exercise are still healthy today.
So, I will conclude that exercise is good for everyone. You can exercise even if you have any kind of health condition, except for one very hard-to-cure condition _ laziness.
Dr Nithi Mahanonda is a consultant cardiologist and interventionist at Perfect Heart Institute, Piyavate Hospital. Visit his website at www.drnithi.com
About the author
Writer: Nithi Mahanonda