Home > Health Library > Physical Activity Helps Prevent a Heart Attack and Stroke
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to help prevent a heart attack
Being active is one part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods, not smoking, and staying at a healthy weight are other ways you can be heart-healthy and help prevent a heart attack or a stroke.
If you are not active, you have a higher risk of heart disease (also called coronary artery disease).
It's never too early or too late to make physical activity part of your life. If you are healthy, it can help you keep your heart as healthy as possible. If you have had a heart attack or stroke, being active is very important to help prevent another one.
Being active helps keep your heart and blood vessels healthy in many ways. It can:
Regular activity might also help your heart if you do have a heart attack. It may increase the
number of smaller blood vessels that connect different coronary arteries. These are called collateral blood vessels. If
one of the major coronary arteries is suddenly blocked, these collateral blood
vessels serve as an alternate route to supply blood to the portion of the heart
muscle that is threatened by a heart attack.
Being active does more than just keep your heart healthy. It keeps your body and mind healthy too.
The added benefits of regular exercise include:
Talk to your doctor before you start being active. This is very important if
you have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease; you haven't been active for a long time; or you have other heart, lung, or metabolic diseases, such as
Your doctor can help you choose activities that will help your heart and are safe for you.
Being more active doesn't have to be hard. Any
activity that raises your heart rate can help your heart. Do something you enjoy, such as
walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing.
To get and stay healthy, do activity at a level that is right for you—moderate or vigorous.footnote 1 Try to do:
To lower your risk, be active for longer than 10 minutes at a time. Try to do aerobic activity for an average of 40 minutes. Try to do this at least 3 or 4 times a week.footnote 2 Aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling) is
Tell your doctor if you are having trouble making activity part of your daily life. Your doctor might refer you to a counselor who specializes in helping people make lifestyle changes.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.
Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
Other Works Consulted
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2014). Healthy diet and physical activity: Counseling adults with high risk of CVD. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/healthy-diet-and-physical-activity-counseling-adults-with-high-risk-of-cvd. Accessed January 2, 2015.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerRobert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - CardiologyRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Current as ofJanuary 27, 2016
Current as of:
January 27, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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