When I nearly suffered a heart attack how many years ago, I realized that I had to revamp my lifestyle, which included paying more attention to regular exercise. Exercise prevents a wide range of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, including:
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
Believe it or not, exercise also enables your body to create its own nonsurgical coronary bypass. This means that, as you exercise, your body can actually create tiny new blood vessels that enhance the flow of blood to your heart. And in the case of a heart attack, those collateral blood vessels can actually save your life.
But there’s even more good news. Recent research conducted in the United Kingdom showed that exercise actually repairs heart attack damage by activating stem cells that can repair heart muscle. This is amazing news, because neither cardiac drugs nor surgery can do that.
It’s never too late to get started. Even if you’ve been inactive your whole life, you can start in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or upward and still reap the benefits well into old age. So don’t waste time regretting a lost opportunity; the time to get started is now.
Let me offer one note of caution, however. If you’re over 50, talk to your doctor for a thorough cardiac evaluation before you begin pursuing an exercise program to make sure you don’t have underlying heart disease. If you do have an underlying heart condition, exercise is your key to reversing it. But you may need to address some medical issues first.
Also, as you start or increase your level of activity, if you experience any symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or undue fatigue, stop and consult your doctor.
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