Guides to Heart Healthy Living

The following guides provide important information on heart health and the health behaviours that can help you improve yours. Your rehab team will encourage you to read each of these during your time in the program.

A Guide to Exercise
This guide will help you learn how to safely start exercise.

A Guide to Understanding Heart Disease
The guide will help you learn more about heart disease, risk factors and medications.

A Guide to Managing Stress
This guide will help you learn how stress can affect heart health and provide you with tools to manage.

A Guide to Heart Healthy Eating
This guide will help you learn more about heart healthy eating.

Online Resource Library

Being diagnosed with a heart condition can be overwhelming, but you have more control over your heart health than you realize. Below are a number of resources to provide you with the information and tools to get you started on the road to a healthier heart!

Click on any of the topic areas below to jump to the resources for that area or simply scroll down the page:

YOUR HEART HEALTH

Resources for Managing Heart Health
Your rehab team may recommend the tools below to help manage your heart health.

BE ACTIVE

Important Safety Considerations for Activities

Medical Clearance
Always check with your doctor and exercise physiologist before starting any new activity. If you have recently had surgery, you should have clearance from your surgeon before starting any activity.

Perform proper warm-up and cool-down before and after any activity
A 5-minute warm-up at light intensity (talk test/ratings of perceived exertion) that gradually gets you moving and ready for the activity, such as a walk around the block, around the house or marching in place.

Once you are finished your activity, a 5-minute cool-down is important to gradually bring your heart rate back down. Stretching after an activity is also beneficial.

General Safety Considerations

Medications
Medications should be taken at least 1.5 to 2 hours before exercise. If you are prescribed nitroglycerin, remember to carry it with you. If you have questions about the timing of your medications, please speak to a healthcare team member.

Avoid nicotine (patch, inhaler or cigarettes) and cannabis products 3-hours before and 1-hour after activity or exercise.

Always bring an up-to-date copy of your medication list with you.

Temperature
Avoid outdoor activities in extreme heat or cold as these temperatures make your heart work harder. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and activity (e.g. layers, sunscreen, hat). Choose breathable fabrics that wick away sweat and help to regulate body temperature. Dress in lighter layers versus heavier ones.

Avoid saunas, hot tubs, or hot showers after activity or exercise.

Your body temperature rises during activity, so it is important to consider the temperature for your activity. If indoors, you may consider opening windows or placing a fan nearby.

Food and Water
Always carry water with you to keep hydrated before, during, and after activity.

Eating a well-balanced meal 2 hours before activity is ideal. If this is not possible, eat a small snack 20-30 minutes before (e.g. fruit, nuts/seeds).

Intensity
During any activity you should always pass the Talk Test (i.e. speak 5-6 words comfortably). If you can only speak one or two words and are gasping for air, you are working too hard.  Refer to section 2 of the Guide to Exercise for a refresher on how to monitor intensity.

Symptoms
Avoid activity during illness or infection.

If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, have any symptoms or feel uncomfortable, stop what you are doing and sit down. Drink some water. If you experience any chest pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing, sit down and call 911. Follow the nitroglycerin protocol if you are prescribed nitro-spray.

Yoga

What to look for

  • Beginner classes, restorative/relaxation, therapeutic classes
  • Hatha, Yin, Iyengar (beginner), Nidra (meditation)

Avoid

  • Hot or heated classes
  • Postures where your head is below your heart for a prolonged period of time (e.g. downward dog – hold for 2-3 breaths only)
  • Postures where you are holding an engaged position (e.g. plank – keep moving)
  • Postures that cause pain
  • Styles such as Hot, Power, Flow, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Moksha, Bikram

Special considerations

  • Osteoporosis/Osteopenia - avoid excessive spine movement (flexion/rotation)
  • Hip Replacement - avoid excessive hip movement (internal/external rotation)
  • Sternotomy (open heart surgery) - wait 8-12 weeks before starting
  • Knee Replacement - use caution with kneeling
  • Postural Hypotension (low blood pressure) - elevate head if lying down, change positions slowly and avoid quick changes in posture
Golfing

If you had open heart surgery, talk to your surgeon about your sternal (chest) stability before starting golf.

General Information

  • Aerobic exercise and core training will reduce your risk of injury and increase your performance.
  • Strength, balance, and flexibility training will improve your balance, coordination, and power.

Avoid

  • Carrying your clubs until you build your strength.
  • Walking the course until you build your fitness level.

Starting back safely

  • Start with riding a cart, gradually progress to walking 9 holes, then walking 18 holes.
  • Walk the course but have a partner carry your clubs on the cart.
  • Pull your clubs using a pull cart for 9 holes, and progress to 18 holes after a few weeks.
  • If you feel good, you can progress to carrying your clubs.
Hiking

General Information

  • Always hike with a partner or in a group
  • Pack snacks and bring 1-2 litres of water with you
  • Check hiking trail difficulty

Avoid

  • Exercising at a somewhat hard/moderate intensity (talk test/ratings of perceived exertion scale), or at your target heart rate, for longer than 1-hour. For hikes longer than one hour, stay in the light intensity zone.
  • High altitudes until you are comfortable with exercise at low altitudes. Altitude can increase your heart rate and make your heart work harder.

Equipment considerations

  • Trekking poles or old ski poles makes walking easier and more enjoyable.
  • Wear multiple light layers rather than a few big heavy ones.
  • Wear good, supportive shoes when hiking.
Snow shoveling

General Information

  • Shoveling is double duty on your body and heart because it tries to keep you warm and meet the demands from heavy lifting.
  • The combination of your body’s response to cold weather and high demands of lifting can increase the risk of a heart event.

Avoid

  • Smoking, caffeine, and eating before shoveling
  • Breathing in cold air directly (cover your mouth with a scarf)
  • Straining

Safety considerations

  • Avoid “throwing” the snow
  • Use smaller shovel and take off 2-inches at a time
  • Take breaks and only clear necessary paths
  • Pay attention to your signs and symptoms
  • Contact snow removal programs in your neighbourhood or community

Additional Resources to Support Being Active
Your rehab team may recommend the tools below to support your exercise training and progression.

MANAGE STRESS

Additional Resources for Mental Health and Wellness
Resources to support you in managing stress and sleep.

EAT WELL FOR HEART HEALTH

Additional Resources for Heart Healthy Eating
Resources to support healthy eating patterns.

Nutrition Consultation Resources

Resources for patients who have a consultation with the dietitian.