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For Patients with Coronary Artery Disease, 'Prescribing' Exercise Can Help

Dr. Sarah DeLeon Mansson, of Valley Medical Center.
Dr. Sarah DeLeon Mansson, of Valley Medical Center. Photo Credit: Contributed

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Coronary artery disease is a condition that develops when the major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart, become damaged. Typically, the source of this damage is plaque build-up and inflammation, which narrows the coronary arteries, and decreases blood flow to the heart. 

Coronary artery disease usually develops over the course of many years, and may go unnoticed until there is a significant blockage. This level of decreased blood flow can bring about symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath. If there is a complete blockage, coronary artery disease can even cause a heart attack.

Research suggests that healthy lifestyle choices like a nutritious diet and at least 150 minutes of moderate to physical activity per week can improve a patient’s overall health. While exercise may not prevent coronary artery disease, it can potentially halt the disease, reverse some of its damage, and help prevent further blockage and chance of heart attack.

When it comes to adding more activity into your daily life, be sure to talk with your doctor, any fitness regimen you begin should be individualized based on your age, gender, physical ability and any medical conditions. It’s important to incorporate activities you enjoy into your exercise regimen; this will help keep you motivated to stick to your routine. Most health professionals would agree that any amount of physical activity beyond sitting is beneficial to your health, so even making small changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and walking throughout the day are positive steps toward a more active life.

While exercise cannot prevent or “cure” coronary artery disease, it is certainly a powerful lifestyle change. Research has shown that for patients with coronary artery disease, cardiac rehabilitation can be just as effective in reducing the mortality rate as some prescribed medications (both reduce the rate by 20%). The ideal “exercise prescription” is different for every patient and should be based on your own personal abilities, limitations, interests, and medical condition. With your doctor's input and approval, you should attempt 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity most days of the week.

Dr. Sarah DeLeon Mansson is a Cardiologist at Valley Medical Group.