Heart Health is an important topic during the month of love and throughout the year, especially because your heart is one of the vital organs keeping you alive and active. The link between heart health and physiotherapy is still one being researched today, however, there has been enough studies completed to prove that the heart greatly depends on the activity levels in one’s body, which is true before and after any cardiovascular problems arise.

When the body succumbs to Heart Disease, also known as Cardiovascular Disease, it stops the heart from functioning as it should and can have minor effects, or tremendous life-changing effects. The most common form of heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease, which usually manifests itself as chest pain from blocked and compressed blood vessels, and is often felt when eating or engaging in exercise. People can live with CAD for years and not know it.  And then there are, of course, the more immediate problems of the cardiovascular system that can happen in addition to CAD, such as Heart Cancer, Strokes, and Heart Attacks. With the right medical attention, those who suffer from Heart Disease can make a change to their heart health and their body.

Not only are there surgeries and medical necessities for taking care of your heart, but there is also the use of Physiotherapy for Heart Disease, which can help those at risk and those who are managing their heart disease, work with their body to improve their heart’s function.  

Why Choose Physiotherapy and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation for Heart Disease?

As with any Physiotherapy, the main goal is to improve the strength of muscles and improve how the body moves. As its own special category, Physiotherapy and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation for Heart Disease targets in on the heart to improve its performance.

Physiotherapy can help the blood flow more easily through the heart, can help open up vessels, and overall strengthens the muscles in the heart.

For those who are at high risk of developing Heart Disease, it is important to seek Physiotherapy (at your doctor’s discretion) to keep your body and heart active. By starting with simple exercises and movements to strengthen muscles, those at risk can help themselves before they develop serious problems. But for those who are either dealing with Cardiovascular Disease, CAD, Cancer, or are recovering from a Stroke or Heart Attack, Physiotherapy and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation is one step en route to a healthier lifestyle that will support the heart and allow the patient to gain a sense of independence and stability in their life once again.

Cardiac Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Exercises  

By working with your Heart Specialist and Doctor recommendations, your Physiotherapist can make appropriate Physiotherapy exercises your body and abilities. The exercises and physiotherapy techniques will differ for someone who is only at risk for heart problems, versus someone who is recovering from a major heart attack, cancer or heart surgery, however, there are a few basics that will overlap.

Breathing Techniques

Working on breathing techniques is one of the simple steps toward better heart health. Oftentimes even those of us who aren’t at dealing with heart problems, place extra strain on our heart muscles because we don’t practice breathing.

It sounds counterintuitive, but practicing breathing can lead to muscle relaxation, mindfulness and a better awareness of our bodies. As babies, we tend to breathe much more deeply and fully, but along the way, we forget that taking relaxed deep breaths are important.  A physiotherapist can work with you on breathing exercises so that your breathing capacity increases and your muscles are more relaxed.

And it may be unnecessary to say, but avoiding all tobacco is especially important when it comes to breathing, heart health and physiotherapy. If your goal is to recover your heart and make it strong again, tobacco will only hinder the process and can lead to more complications.

Building Back Strength and Balance In the Body

Major trauma to the heart or reduced blood flow from the heart can also have an effect on other muscles in the body and their performance. Strokes and Heart attacks are episodes that especially leave muscles in the arms, face, and legs weak, but muscles can also be weak from reduced blood flow prior to these events happening.

By working with a Physiotherapist on muscle strength, you will increase your body’s ability to move and stabilize. For example, your Physiotherapist may give you basic arm raising exercises in order to increase the range of motion in your arm, which in turn helps your body move and keeps blood flowing to the extremities of your body. Or for those with muscle weakness in the leg, they may suggest a small, stationary bike-peddle machine that will keep your legs moving while building muscles, slowly increases your cardio levels, and gets the blood flowing to your lower body.

Physiotherapists can also help patients with recovering nervous system muscles in the face, such as those in the peripheral vestibular system, those in the spinal cord, and those in the brain. The vestibular system is important because it controls the flow of liquid in the inner ears, which pertains to vision and balance. If a nerve in this system has been damaged from heart problems, it’s important to help a patient rebalance and rehabilitate with techniques such as side-to-side head rotations and stretching of the neck.

Re-Introducing Cardio in the Routine

Once the patient has a bit of control over their body movements and has strengthened their muscles, the most important part of Physiotherapy and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation needs to be addressed, getting the heart pumping.

While the exercises for breathing and ligament movements will support the heart, it is important that the capacity of the heart to push out blood slowly increases. Your Physiotherapist will create a physiotherapy routine with exercises that begin with stretching out the muscles, then increasing to walking or a light jog to bring up the heart rate, followed by a cool down where your heart slowly returns back to normal resting rate. When doing these routines with your Physiotherapist, they will monitor your pulse and your level of effort, and any pain you may have. By monitoring movements and the heart, your Physiotherapist can make adjustments and recommendations to the plan so you can also work on the routine, comfortably at home.

As with any activity done at home, it’s important to stop exercising, take necessary measures and also take note if you have any chest pain, tightness or nausea as it can be a sign of your heart overworking itself.

Taking Control of Your Heart Health with Physiotherapy

If you want to learn more about Physiotherapy and its role in keeping your heart healthy and your body active, contact our Waterloo Physiotherapists. Our goal is to help patients rehabilitate and get their bodies and hearts back to their best performance. We take a thorough approach to all physiotherapy and can also recommend other therapies, such as Massage Therapy and Acupuncture if it will aid in the rehabilitation process.

Contact us today if you want to learn how Physiotherapy and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation can help you or a loved one.