While Valentine’s Day may be over, few of us may actually know that February is Heart Month. While cancer is on the rise in Malta, pacing steadily behind is this disease of the cardiovascular system, which is still the leading cause of death amongst men and women.

So what is cardiovascular disease? It’s first and foremost an umbrella term for all diseases associated with the heart and circulation, including strokes, heart failure, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation. In Malta, the major risk factors are high cholesterol and diabetes, and whilst a bad diet may be to blame, excessive sedentary behaviour may be another major culpable cause. To make matters worse, a sedentary lifestyle has also been linked to high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.

So what are the ways to combat sedentary behaviour when you have a desk job that takes over eight hours of your day and sometimes even more?


Standing is one way to go about it!

If the day leaves you with absolutely no time to dedicate to exercise, here’s one movement you can take up. Whether it’s during meetings, whilst working, talking on the phone or waiting for the bus, its benefits are long term as it helps increase muscle, mobility and body flexibility. It also decreases weight, blood sugar and cholesterol. Standing can go a long way and it gives your heart circulation the daily boost it needs.

Granted, standing up could be considered to be a sign of aloofness, especially at work. Standing up at a meeting whilst everyone is sitting down might come across as rude. However, a little explanation might create some awareness. Hey, it might also score you a couple of points on the health-conscious employee chart.



Exercise and Heart Disease Statistics

The American Heart Association claims that regular physical activity leads to heart-healthy habits that can fight obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. On top of that, active people with high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and chronic diseases like heart attack are less likely to die prematurely than inactive people with these conditions.

Physical activity helps prevent bone loss, increases muscle strength and improves coordination and balance. Most importantly, it can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, having a non-fatal heart attack and the need for bypass surgeries or angioplasties. Still waving the couch potato flag?



Weight Loss and Heart Disease

Being overweight can increase the chances of heart disease. This is particularly relevant for men who measure more than 40 inches at the waist and women whose waist measures more than 35 inches.

Physical activity must be accompanied by a healthy eating plan in order to achieve weight loss safely. Replacing white grains with whole grains, eating seafood instead of red meat, or opting for olive oil instead of solid fats such as butter could make an astounding improvement to your daily diet. When eating out at restaurants, go for steamed, grilled or broiled dishes instead of fried or sautéed ones.



Precautions to take if you have heart problems when exercising

It’s vital that you consult a doctor prior to beginning a new exercise programme, especially if you’ve been inactive for quite long. Exercise can sometimes have the adverse effect, especially in those who’ve experienced heart disease and aren’t monitoring their activity closely.

It’s important to recognise heart trouble even whilst exercising. Symptoms may manifest themselves in an entirely different manner to a previous heart attack. If you feel any of these during your workout, then you should stop instantly and seek medical attention:

  • Discomfort in the chest such as pressure, squeezing or fullness in the centre with a pain that comes and goes.
  • A feeling of unusual breathlessness coupled with chest discomfort that is often a precursor to a heart attack.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Certain heart rhythm abnormalities like a skipping, a palpitating or a thumping heartbeat which indicate a cardiovascular problem.
  • Discomfort and pressure in other areas of the body such as the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach and spasm pains from one part of the body to the other.
  • Nausea and breaking into a cold sweat are also a sign of a potential problem.



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