Blot out clots
Infrequent exercise can lead to blood clot formation
Pool exercises are best for those with severe arthritis that prevents weight-bearing exercise
TAKE IT EASY beginners should begin with low intensity exercise Photo: K. Ananthan
Regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, in very rare instances, vigorous exercise can trigger a heart attack. This is very rare - about one death per 20,000 person-years of exercise, but it can happen, and weekend warriors who occasionally experience the urge for intense exercise should be aware of this possibility.
People with cardiovascular disease often have increased tendency to form blood vessel clots and impaired ability to dissolve clots. Genetics, age, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, obesity, post-menopausal status and heavy alcohol consumption have a large influence on clot formation and dissolution. To this list, add sedentary people who exercise infrequently but intensely.
Exercise increases clot formation tendency. In regularly active people, clot dissolution balances clot formation. In sedentary people, clot dissolution can fail to keep up with clot formation: occasionally this can lead to a clot blocking a vessel supplying a portion of the heart or the brain. In other words, heart attack and stroke.
Studies show that sedentary people who take up moderate and regular exercise improve their ability to dissolve clots.
All beginners should begin with low intensity exercise and progress to higher intensities over weeks. The reason for this oft-repeated advice is that sedentary muscles are capable of exercise that the heart, tendons, ligaments and metabolism are not yet ready to support.
Some people who have been sedentary for life have bodies comparable in strength and metabolism to recuperating heart attack victims. And the same precautions apply for those with longstanding sedentary lifestyle as for those with a recent heart attack: begin with gentle exercise, monitor your heart rate, pay attention to what your body is telling you. This will lower the risk of blood clots in sedentary people who take up exercise. Aerobic exercise is the best form of exercise for beginners. Walking for half an hour every day is the best way to begin. Pool exercises are best for those with severe arthritis that prevents weight-bearing exercise.
Age and genetic factors are non-modifiable risk factors for blood clots, but regular and moderate aerobic exercise, combined with lifestyle modifications like switching to a healthful diet and stopping smoking, and strict adherence to prescribed medication regimens will prevent most heart attacks and strokes.
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