By Maryse Isma
Special to CSMS MagazineAn abundance of scientific evidence shows that moderate aerobic exercise performed most days of the week significantly reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. It just makes you feel better, too. But if you’re a person who exercises hard—especially a “weekend warrior” who is sedentary all week but suddenly participates in a strenuous event—or an averages exerciser who sometimes gets over exuberant, there are important safety rules to keep in mind. Experts believe that infrequent strenuous exercise overstresses your body and may trigger a heart attack. It occurs more often than most people realize. If you’re at risk for heart disease (because of high blood pressure and/or obesity, for example) and you exercise to the point where your muscles are sore the next day, then your risk for fatal heart attack increases up to 10-fold. When your muscles are overtaxed by a hard and/or long exercise session—such as playing singles tennis when you’re used to doubles…lifting heavier weights than usual …running an unusually long distance—the muscles tissues becomes injured and inflamed. For people with coronary artery diseases—marked by plague deposits on artery walls—this acute inflammation has two dangerous effects. First, it triggers the release of cytokines, which promote the blood’s tendency to clot. This increases your chances of having a heart attack, for inducing blood clot in the artery if an arterial plague rupture should occur. Second, the cytokines trigger the release of inflammation marker called C-reactive protein (CRP) into the bloodstream. Elevated CRP levels have been associated with unstable arterial plague that is prone to rupture. It is recommended to never suddenly increase your exercise duration or intensity. If you have any heart attack risk factors and plan an extra-long jog, bike ride, tennis match, etc., check with your doctor about taking a low-dose aspirin (81 mg) both the day before, and the day of, your exercise session. This will reduce the blood’s tendency to clot by inhibiting platelet stickiness. Also, it is recommended that before beginning or significantly increasing an exercise program, anyone over the age 40 (especially those who smoke, have diabetes and/or hypertension or have been sedentary) should ask his/her doctor about getting screened for coronary artery disease. Tests may include blood tests for cholesterol and CRP levels and a stress test (walking and running on a treadmill while hooked to an electrocardiography—EKG—machine) to determine your safe level of exercise intensity. If these test results are inconclusive, ask your doctor about getting a spiral computed tomography (CT) scan of the coronary arteries to check for deposits of calcium (a component of arterial plague). If you do have coronary artery disease, your treatment will most likely include low-intensity exercise. To Monitor Your Exercise Intensity, it is important to buy an inexpensive heart monitor, available at most sporting-goods stores, to help keep your heart rate from exceeding a certain “safe zone” agreed upon by you and your doctor. As a rule of thumb, always exercise moderately so that you can break a sweat but can also easily carry on a conversation while you are working out. Finally, do not increase the intensity or duration of your workout by more than 10% over any two-week period. Signs of over-exercising include chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, muscles tiredness, nagging congestion or sore throat, and/or aches and pains that don’t go away. If you experience any of these problems, reduce the frequency and length of your exercise sessions. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.Also seeCan Physicians Protect You From Superbugs?