Staying Heart Healthy with 4 Easy Steps

Submitted by Courtney Kline, PTA

When you think of one of the biggest team players in our everyday life, we think of our heart. It is one of our 4 major organs in our body, in fact, without it we wouldn't be here! Your heart pumps and returns blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to all organs, muscles, and tissue in our body, so when there a glitch, a problem, or a mishap with it, there can be big problems.

Hypertension (high blood pressure), strokes, and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) are all conditions or possibilities that can occur in your heart, ones that you are more at risk for with increased inactivity, increased stress, and not enough general knowledge of how we can help ourselves. Your heart has both a mechanical factor and an electrical factor, both of which can be affected by these conditions.

So how can we make a change? Get up and move! At home, at work, at the grocery store, you name a place and you can move there! Studies have shown with increased activity overall in your day, you can lower blood pressure, which lowers risk for strokes, lowers the effort from your heart which can affect the rhythm of your heart, which overall improves the function of other organs. Taking stress out of our lives, giving more time to get places, or even taking a deep breath before getting angry can have tremendous effects on the function of our heart.

The American Heart Association recommends you have some form of activity for 30 minutes a day, 5 days out of the week, for a total of 150 minutes of activity in the week.

This may seem like a lot but it can be broken up into sections. Parking further away from an entrance, going for a walk at lunch, or doubling up on your stairs at home for an extra round or two are all ways to add extra movement into your day. By keeping yourself moving, you are keeping your heart working in a better condition which in essence helps us to live longer, healthier lives!  With all the being said, how can PHYSICAL THERAPY help?

Physical Therapy is meant to teach how to move properly, how to prepare our bodies for activities in our daily life, and how to strengthen/stabilize joints and muscles so further injury doesn't occur.

Here are a few ideas to think about before you start your 30 minutes a day movement:

1. Stretching - When we begin increasing our activity level without stretching, we run the risk of making our muscles tighter. This can change the way we move and when you change how you move. you can potentially pull or injure a muscle.

2. Strengthening - Moving around doesn't include only the use of your feet, in fact, you use your whole body. Strengthening your ankles, knees, hips, and especially your core are all really important to keep from overcompensating. Balance activities can be an excellent way to strengthen all of the above.

3. Progression - Starting your new movement with a 10-mile run would probably not be the best way to begin. Your muscles wouldn't quite be ready for such a long distance. Injury, fatigue, or overall soreness would probably occur. It's important to listen to your body and slowly increase your activity level. 

4. Accountability - Once you start, your body is not going to want you to stop! The improvements in your heart, muscles, and joints become your new normal so it is important to maintain activity every day, including the tips above, in order for your body's health to maintain. 

Physical Therapy incorporates all these concepts into our daily program so if there is an injury, aches, pains, or overall deconditioning, it can help you reach a heart-healthy way of life!

-  Submitted by Courtney Kline, PTA 

About Courtney Kline, PTA

Courtney is a Physical Therapist Assistant at Loudoun Physical Therapy.  She graduated from James Madison University in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences. After JMU, she returned to school two years later for her Associates Degree with an emphasis in Physical Therapy from NVCC, graduating in 2012. She has extensive experience in outpatient therapy and enjoys working with the community to help make a difference! Outside of work, she is a volunteer EMT for Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad here in Loudoun County, where she met her husband. If they aren't running rescue together and spending time on an ambulance, they are active with family, friends, and especially their highly energetic Goldendoodle, Bear! Courtney and her family are huge University of Alabama fans... Roll tide!

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