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Exercising caution

You want to exercise, but you’re nervous about your heart. It’s a natural reaction for people who have heart disease or those who’ve had a heart attack. But you need exercise. In fact, heart attack survivors who make heart-healthy changes such as being active live longer than those who don’t. Still, you need to be careful. Here’s how to safely start exercising when you have heart problems:

Consult with your healthcare provider. He or she can recommend an exercise program. You may need to take an exercise stress test to help him or her determine the appropriate level of activity for you.

Get with the program. Your provider may suggest cardiac rehabilitation. These programs are staffed by health professionals who can monitor you while you work out. You’ll learn how to exercise safely and get tips on how to live healthfully. You may walk, bike or jog and do weight-training three or more times a week. Don’t worry if that sounds like a lot. Your cardiac rehab team will help you set a comfortable pace.

Earn a little extra credit. Stay active outside of the gym with household chores such as vacuuming, playing with your kids or grandchildren and walking the dog.

Watch for signs. Let your provider know whether you have any abnormal symptoms (chest tightness, breathing problems or extreme fatigue during or after working out). When you exercise, bring any prescribed emergency medications, such as nitroglycerin tablets.

Call for emergency help if you have chest pain during exercise. You could be having a heart attack.