With February being American Heart Month and children everywhere sharpening up their “jump roping skills” for Jump Rope for Heart, it seems appropriate to discuss physical therapy’s role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Nearly everyone reading this article knows someone or has been personally affected by heart issues. Not only is cardiovascular (heart) disease America’s leading cause of death, but as you age the risk of development and progression only increase. The risk of heart disease, stroke, and elevated blood pressure can be minimized by simply making and being consistent with lifestyle and activity changes. These changes are important early in life, but are never too late to adopt – regardless of age. This is particularly important as we are in the heart of “cabin fever” and have spent several months cooped up indoors.

National recognition is growing in support of physical therapy’s role in advocating for “a culture of physical activity as an essential component of care in patients with stable heart failure.” Exercises like jogging or brisk walking, as well as resistance training can significantly reduce blood pressure in adults – thus decreasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Current recommendations include a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as running or high-intensity interval training per week. They also recommend weight or resistance training at least twice a week. The World Health Organization has reported walking five days a week reduces the chances of having a stroke by up to 46 percent.

Not only are physical and occupational therapists knowledgeable on the physical factors that influence heart health, but are also well connected to provide a team-based approach in caring for those with heart conditions. This may require appropriate nutrition referrals, reviewing medications, assisting with goal setting, communicating changes with your medical team, and providing education for the patient and their families to reduce the risk of serious complications and progression of disease.

If you are concerned about your potential for heart disease, need assistance in maintaining your activity level after a cardiac event, or want help starting a heart healthy exercise program – contact the staff at OSPTI at 218-641-7725 today.

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