Most people are pretty good judges of what’s going on with their own bodies. But telling a heart attack from other causes of chest pain is tough stuff—even, it turns out, for highly trained doctors. That’s why I thought this personal story, written by a Harvard doctor who has heart disease, would make an interesting read. It’s an excerpt—the full version can be found in Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease, an updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Early one spring, I noticed a burning sensation high in my abdomen whenever I walked up a hill or worked out on the treadmill. I felt perfectly healthy otherwise. I had lots of energy and could do high-level exercise on the treadmill—once the burning sensation went away—without becoming short of breath. I thought it was just heartburn, so I started taking powerful acid-suppressing pills. They didn’t help.
Sometimes when I would feel the burning in my chest, I would remember an old saying to the effect that “A doctor who takes care of himself has a fool for a patient.” Still, I hesitated; I didn’t want to waste the time of a cardiologist if all I had was heartburn.
But one morning as I walked across the street from the garage to my office in the hospital, Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*
Cardiac rehabilitation, or guided exercise under direction of a physical therapist, is a valuable yet underutilized therapy for patients suffering a heart attack. Importantly, in those patients with ongoing risk factors related to obesity and insulin resistance/diabetes, aggressive cardiac rehab was recently shown to be especially effective.
Specifically, two groups of patients were enrolled in high intesity (5-7 days weekly of 45-60 minutes exercise) versus standard (3 days weekly of 25-40 minutes exercise).
High intensity patients lost more than twice as much weight over 5 months as standard patients (18 pounds vs. 8 pounds and had significantly greater reductions in 2 major cardiac risk factors — waist circumference and insulin resistance. At 1 year, both groups had gained a couple of pounds over 5-month weights, but total body-fat percentages in the aggressive group remained significantly lower than initial readings. Other cardiac risk factors changed too – including decreased insulin resistance, increased HDL (good) cholesterol, and decreased measures of insulin, triglycerides, blood pressure, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, and the ratio of total to HDL (good) cholesterol.
Overall then, patients who took advantage of their motivation after heart attack to aggressively address exercise goals reduced potential risk factors and set the tone for a healthier life. If you have been a heart attack sufferer, ask your doctor about cardiac rehab. If you are not a heart attack sufferer but have risks, ask your doctor about trying a program like this on your own.
Questions and comments welcome as always!
*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*