Angina and Physical activity
The heart, like any other muscle, needs physical activity to keep it in good condition. In coronary heart disease there is narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Angina is pain that comes from the heart. This can be severe and very limiting for some and only very mild in others. In an unhealthy heart, any extra blood supply cannot get past the narrowed coronary arteries, which causes pain.
Physical activity reduces your risk of having further problems. Conditioning the heart reduces symptoms of angina and prevents it from getting worse. It can have a positive effect on other risk factors including: high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels (by raising the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol – HDL), diabetes (by gaining better control of blood sugar), having a family history of heart disease, smoking and increased body fat (in particular having lots of fat around the middle).
Regular physical activity also gives you more energy, builds confidence and can help you to sleep more soundly at night. You can combine your activity time with family and friends or use it as an opportunity to reflect on things and listen to your favourite music.
Physical Activity Recommendations for inactive adults with AnginaAim to do the following three types of activity:
- Aerobic activity at relative moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least five days each week.
- Muscle strengthening activity on two or more days a week which work all major muscles groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder and arms)
- Flexibility exercises on a daily basis
The Three Types of Activity and AnginaYou may find the following weekly approach useful if you have been inactive for a while.
Aerobic activityAerobic activity, also known as endurance activity, is when large muscle movements, maintained over a period of time, make the heart and lungs work harder. Activity type? – Any type that you can maintain comfortably is ideal. Choose exercises that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling or group fitness classes. Aerobic activity is very important for your heart and circulation. How long (duration)? – You can split your total activity amount into minimum bouts of 10 minutes if needed. If you have been inactive for a long time, start with short daily amounts and increase this as your body allows and you feel more confident. Remember not to sit for hours. A regular break from sitting every hour is healthy.
Muscle StrengtheningOnce your aerobic fitness improves, consider adding strength training on at least 2 days a week. Improved muscle tone can also help you gain better shape and improve the way you look and feel. Stronger, larger muscles use up more calories for energy so it can help you maintain your body fat. Some activities, such as climbing stairs, digging the garden or walking up hill, combine aerobic and muscle strengthening types.
Flexibility ExercisesDaily flexibility exercises can prevent pain, stiffness, and injury of muscles and joints. People often experience a sense of wellbeing and relaxation during flexibility exercises. Some quick and simple movements can be found in our separate exercise sheet. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are examples of some activities which combine strength and flexibility as well as balance training.
- If you have led a very sedentary lifestyle, begin by doing low intensity exercise of short duration, e.g. 10 minutes. Increase your level of activity gradually to avoid injury
- Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, sick, unwell or very tired.
- See a doctor if you are having chest pain, black outs or breathlessness on mild exertion.
- Reduce your chance of experiencing angina by warming up at the beginning and cooling down at the end of your activity session.
- Try to avoid doing physical activity after a heavy meal or in very cold or very hot weather.
- Cool down slowly as some blood pressure medications reduce blood pressure too much if exercise is ended too quickly.
- Have your GTN spray or tablet to hand during activity. If you experience angina symptoms, stop and rest until the discomfort passes. Take your GTN medication as instructed by your doctor or nurse.
- If you are about to do an activity, such has climbing a hill, which you know will bring on your angina then you might want to take your GTN spray or tablet to avoid angina discomfort.
- If your angina occurs more frequently or you cannot do what you once did then see your doctor as soon as possible.
- Avoid holding your breath during weight training as this can cause large changes in your BP which could cause you to faint. Avoid heavy weightlifting.
- Avoid exercises in which the head is lower than the heart as this can raise your blood pressure.
- Angina (Coronary Heart Disease)
- Previous Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
- Cardiovascular Risk
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
DisclaimerThis leaflet has been provided for information only. ALWAYS check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. Prescription4exercise.com is not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for ANY form of damages whatsoever resulting from the use (or misuse) of information contained in or implied by this information.
- Start Active, Stay Active – a report on physical activity for health from the four home countries ‘ Chief Medical Officers. UK Department of Health, July 2011. www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_128209
- ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, American College of Sports Medicine, 2009
- Swedish National Institute of Public Health. Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease. Professional Associations for Physical Activity, Sweden, 2010. Coronary artery disease. 283-299. www.fyss.se