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Coronary Risk Factors in Exercise

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Author: Linda Hibbard

Every thirty three seconds an American dies of cardiovascular disease which includes heart disease and stroke. Heart disease affects an estimated sixty two million Americans, more than any other illness.

The most common risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease are: age, men over forty and women over fifty, obesity, cigarette smoking, a blood pressure greater than 160/90, serum cholesterol greater than 240 and a family history of parents or siblings with coronary disease before age fifty five. If a person has one or more cardiac risk factors, a doctor's release form should be required before the person begins an exercise program.

Other factors to consider include: a sedentary lifestyle for years, over weight by 20 pounds or more, pain or pressure in the chest area, medication(s) prescribed on a regular basis, any history of a lung disorder, and any disease of the joints or muscles.

People who have had a heart attack or bypass surgery are considered high risk and should be under medical supervision while exercising.

After approval to exercise is received, the program design could be as follows:

First, an assessment must be made of the person's current fitness status. Is he/she overweight? How much is he/she overweight? I would determine what would be his/her target heart rate at 50 to 60% of his/her maximum rate. This is the target we would shoot for during aerobic and resistance training. Of course I would determine his/her perceived rate of exertion and strive to keep this at moderate or comfortably hard.

The resistance training program would start out using low resistances, for 1 set of 10-15 repetitions for each major muscle group, for 2 days a week to start.

This is a good starting point for a person who has one or more coronary risk factors when no exercise recommendations are received from his/her physician.

I say this is a good and safe starting point because, as with all populations, altering the program will be necessary to design one that benefits the person individually. Every person is different, and has individual needs.

Exercise is a risk factor intervention. Aerobic endurance training effectively modifies cardiovascular risk factors associated with the development of coronary artery disease. Resistance training offers greater development of muscular strength, endurance and muscle mass. Resistance training is particularly beneficial for improving the function of most cardiac patients.

The name of this article is "Coronary Risk Factors in Exercise". More importantly, we need to acknowledge the "risk factors involved when people do not exercise and have low activity rates".

A person who exercises on a regular basis experiences valuable benefits to his/her health and well being.

1. Lower overall weight
2. Less life threatening diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease
and stroke
3. Greater immunity to everyday virus' and bacteria
4. Improved mental attitude and feeling of well being
5. Improved sleep patterns
6. Experiences a better quality of life

References: Designing Resistance Training Programs, by Steven J. Fleck and William J. Kraemer, 2004, Human Kinetics, page 130

Linda Hibbard holds certificates in Personal Training and Lifestyle/Weight Management. Innovative health and fitness products for men and women are available through her website at


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