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British Heart Foundation
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Exercise

I’m now nearly 4 months into my diagnosis of Dilated Cardiomyopathy and feel I should start some exercise as my meds seem to be making it difficult to lose weight, I’ve gained 8lb since diagnosis, I have a fairly active job where I walk about 4 miles a day (you’d think that would be enough!) and I’m also planning to start a low carb diet! My diet is pretty good anyway so that shouldn’t be to much of a problem. What Id like to find out is what sort of cardio exercise I could do and more importantly what would be any warning signs that I’m over doing it and not just unfit 😂😂? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Fi 😊

28 Replies
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Is there a cardiac rehab class in your area? Well worth checking out. You’ll get the advice you’re looking for, and meet people with similar issues.

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Not that I know of, I feel since my diagnosis I’ve been left in limbo, I asked the cardiologist on my last visit (25 April) if I could return to the gym and all I got was ‘yes’. 🙁

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If there is no rehab class I would have a word with your GP.

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Im at my GP on Tuesday I’ll ask 😊

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I wasn't eligible for rehab in my area, but did manage to get my GP to refer me for some supported sessions at the gym - basically what people who'd just done rehab would get as follow-up - so definitely worth finding out what might be available for you.

I've been told in the past to judge exercise intensity by how it feels to me - be short of breath but not unable to speak etc. Also been told if I feel ill the next day I have done too much and to do less the next time. None of this is especially useful since what I find easy enough one day can feel impossible the next and if I do feel ill the next day then it's a bit too late to do anything about it! That's the best I have to go on really, so I do what I can with it, but it is less than ideal.

I'm also struggling to lose weight, despite doing my best to eat well and making exercise more of a priority than I'd like to. I'm getting quite frustrated, but I feel like I have to persevere. I keep telling myself I might have prevented deterioration with my efforts and that no improvement does not mean it's all been for nothing. Pretty hard to stay motivated with that mindset though... Have looked out my gym stuff for tomorrow morning, which is always a good first step - ha!

Good luck finding something that works for you :)

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Thanks Laura! I’ve got my gym bag packed ready for tomorrow! I’m only intending doing 30 mins of gentle cycling and treadmill, walking only, and see how I get on with that. My husband is concerned that it’s going to increase my tiredness, as I’m pretty knackered some days after work , but I feel the need to try and do something as the weight it gradually creeping up 😢xx

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I know what you mean, I really resent using energy on exercise when it leaves me with not enough energy for everything else I want to do. I hope it will lead to more energy in the longer term, even if it is less energy in the immediate term. I do find I sleep really well when I exercise regularly though and definitely get a well-rested sort of energy even if I don't feel too good. And I'm coming to accept I need a couple of really early nights each week. Guess it's all about finding the balance.

Your gym workout sounds quite similar to the one my trainer/supervisor set for me - low intensity cardio for about 30 mins after a gentle warm-up. I do some (very light!) weights after that and then walk even more slowly on the treadmill until my heart rate is back to its starting point again. I think if you take it easy and build up gradually, you should be fine. Will think of you as I pound the treadmill belt in the morning! :)

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Pound the treadmill lol? I’ll be doing more of a quick shuffle 😂🤣😂

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I slept in, got embroiled in the school run and failed to make it to the gym at all! Hope you're doing better than me! 😂

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I’m going tonight after work.....allegedly 🙈🤣x

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I'm in a similar situation, approximately 6 months post diagnosis. The advice that I've received from several sources is "listen to your body" - basically what Laura says.

Some days I'm better than others. Lactic acid seems to build up quicker in my muscles than it used to, though. I had a stress test performed by my cardiologist a week or so ago and he was surprised at the level I achieved considering my low ejection fraction.

I hope this helps.

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Thanks Ian, your right, as long as I’m sensible! Will exercise help improve my EF? It was 23 when first diagnosed, then after 2 months it went up to 30 , o presume that was because of the meds ? 😊

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My cardiologist told me that my EF was 25% last week. I'd previously been told it was 27% but I suppose there must be a few % measurement error.

I feel a bit of a fraud sometimes when medical staff ask me if I can climb some stairs or walk from the waiting room to the consulting room as I frequently walk 3 or 4 miles when I go for a walk 😀. The limiting factor is time!

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It’s mad isn’t it ? I work as a dental nurse I’m on my feet from 6am until I get home at 6pm! And I feel pretty ok to be honest ! I’m hoping that my EF will have improved again by the time I get my 2nd Echo at the end of July 😊

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I probably feel worse as a result of all the meds I've been put on to reduce the stress on my heart. 😁

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Hi

I assume EF mentioned in a couple of replies is the echo scan usually around 55-65% with a healthy heart. This is where I get confused with heart problems, how can people walk let alone exercise with a EF of only 25%?

I may have it wrong, but if not how much power does the heart have to lose before it becomes a problem?

I get more and more baffled with heart failure, maybe I’m on the Internet too much.

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Snap! I don’t google anything though! I wonder how I function most days but I feel pretty good considering 🤗

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My cardiologist attributed my performance to a “good long axis reserve”. 🤓

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Get yourself a heart rate monitor and establish an exercise regime that gets your ticker working at a sustainable rate without overdoing it.....and stick to it! I do two gym sessions a week and also get my heart rate up to 100+ every day for at least a few minutes on an exercise bike, together with golf and regular walks in the countryside it keeps me fit without overdoing it.

Over time as you gain confidence you can extend the time spent at your chosen exercise rate. Check what this rate should be with your cardiologist first though!!!

The best lifestyle change is to dump those useless carbs and one of the best meds you can get is a pair of walking shoes.

Good luck

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Carry on walking and build ur stamina up and look into fun exercise options. That’s my plan I’m the other way tho need to gain weight but need to exercise for my heart health.

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Hi Gal4God, I need to gain weight too, but not fat. It's hard isn't it without eating the wrong things?

What do you weigh? I'm only 46.5 KG, but I've always been petite, and my weight is steady, I'm not losing it either. I need to build up muscles! Margaret x

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I’m probably less than that but love my junk food so learning to eat healthy.

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I am in a similar position to you and was advised to speak to my cardiologist regarding the Borg scale - this gives you a level of fitness to work to from tying shoelaces to a full blown work out. I have also found that the weight has piled on since being put on bisoprolol.

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I asked my cardiologist last time I was there and he wasn’t very helpful to be honest, just said I could return to the gym, no advice or anything 🙁

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I am struggling to get a response myself but what I have been doing is looking on the BHF website and just doing marching and things like that as I also have arthritis in both knees and find that pushes my heart rate up but get tired sooner that getting palpitations and walking is always a good one - just pace yourself and always remember the getting back so don't go too far and build up each day - works for me x

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Well I went to the gym last night and did some low intensity cardio for half and hour! Felt good to be back, the hardest thing was actually going once I’d finished work 😂😂😂. I spoke to one of the trainers who’s going to put a programme together for me so I’m back to see her in 2 weeks. let’s hope I can keep it up! Thanks for all your suggestions and support 👊🏼❤️👊🏼

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Hello Fi, I hope you are continuing to improve six months on. I've not long been on this site but was diagnosed with a very low EF a couple of years ago now, time has flown! I was lucky to go on a rehab programme and it sounds like you have the right idea with your exercises, I was told a slow warm up 15 mins, then I do 10 mins cycling, taking my heart rate up a bit and feeling slightly exerted. Like Laura I do a bit with weights 2kg dumbells(always move your legs when using weights with hf) , then 3minutes (!) on the cross trainer before more on the treadmill and 10 minutes cool down. At first I felt a bit daft next to fit sorts in the gym but used to it now! I was told my max heart rate should be 110 but I guess that's different for everyone. It helps heart failure to do exercise regularly alongside the meds. Supposed to be exercising 3 times a week. I don't know what my EF is now but like some of the others who've replied to you I was walking up hills and working with an EF Of 10-15 % when first diagnosed. I didn't generally feel brilliant though but fine when walking !! BTW I am 57 now female and no other health issues (I hope!). Anyway, hoping things are good for you x

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Morning, yes I’m still trying to be as active, although I’m off work this week with some sort of flu virus that I just can’t shake off. Anyway, had my 3 monthly echo/cardiologist review a few weeks ago and my EF has gone up to 45/50! And he’s out me in a yearly review! I was over the moon! ! So any thing is possible! Glad you’re keeping active, it also helps me mentally too! I feel much better for it! ❤️

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