Heart attack is the leading cause of death in Western women.
After menopause women lose the protective benefits that oestrogen provides for heart health.
Many of us are completely unaware of the risk of heart attack in women and what they can do to reduce the major risk factor for heart disease.
Read on now to learn:
- How to reduce the risk of heart attack in women
- How pelvic floor problems can increase the risk of heart disease
- Exercise guidelines to prevent heart disease in women
How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack in Women
The right kind of exercise reduces the risk of heart disease including heart attack in women.
Appropriate exercise help reduce the strain on your heart by:
- Reducing cholesterol or fatty deposits lining your arteries
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Decreasing your body fat
- Improving your circulation
How Pelvic Floor Problems can Increase the Risk of Heart Disease
Women with pelvic floor problems sometimes reduce their physical activity or cease exercising altogether. This includes some women with prolapse, after prolapse surgery, chronic pelvic pain or incontinence.
Why Some Women Avoid Exercise
Women with pelvic floor problems sometimes avoid or cease exercising altogether for a number of reasons:
- Fear of worsening prolapse
- Concern about repeat prolapse after surgery
- Vaginal bulging or pelvic heaviness prolapse symptoms with exercise
- Pelvic pain or discomfort during or after exercise
- Embarrassment about bladder or bowel leakage
- Inability to access pelvic floor safe exercise services
- Confusion or lack of understanding about how to exercise safely and avoid worsening pelvic floor problems
What Happens when Women don’t Exercise?
Their risk of heart disease increases!
Recent research at the University of Queensland1 has demonstrated that physical inactivity poses the greatest risk for heart disease in women over the age of 30 years old.
These researchers found that the risk of physical inactivity was higher than smoking, high BMI (Body Mass Index or obesity) and high blood pressure in women over 30. They state that programs that promote physical activity in women deserve a much higher public profile than what they currently receive.
Exercise Guidelines for Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease
The recommended quantity of aerobic fitness exercise for cardiovascular fitness in healthy adults2
- Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise on 5 days or more (at least 150 minutes or 2.5hrs/week)
- Perform at least 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise on 3 days or more (at least 75 minutes or 1.25 hrs/week)
- Exercise sessions can consist of 10 minute sessions or one longer session
- Progress the amount of fitness exercise you do over time
- You will still benefit from some aerobic activity even if you can’t meet these guidelines.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic or cardiorespiratory exercise trains the fitness of your heart and lungs reducing the risk of heart attack in women.
Aerobic exercise involves continuous rhythmical exercise that noticeably increases your heart rate. Aerobic classes in the gym are just one type of aerobic exercise – there are many types of aerobic fitness exercises that women with pelvic floor problems can safely perform.
Pelvic Floor Safe Aerobic Fitness Exercise
Pelvic floor safe fitness exercises are low impact exercises.
Low impact exercises keep your landing forces to a minimum and help to avoid overloading your pelvic floor with high impact landing. When you land heavily on the ground, the downward load of your abdomen is transferred directly to your pelvic floor. This force loads your pelvic floor and if repeated over time, can stretch, strain and weaken your pelvic floor muscles and tissues.
Pelvic floor Safe Aerobic Exercises for Heart Health
- Brisk walking
- Low impact dancing
- Low impact fitness classes
- Low impact exercise machines (e.g. bike, elliptical, step using low resistance)
High Impact Exercises to Avoid
The following fitness exercises may reduce the risk of heart disease in women however they are not generally considered pelvic floor safe exercises.
- Star jumps
- High box steps
- High impact aerobics classes
How to Reduce your Risk of Heart Attack?
Reduce your risk of heart attack by staying physically active!
If you are living with a pelvic floor problem, choosing appropriate low impact aerobic exercise will help you exercise safely, help you protect your pelvic floor and reduce the risk of heart disease and associated heart attack that is linked to physical inactivity in women.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support, along with Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe aerobic fitness and strength exercises.
1 Brown W, Pavey T, Bauman A (2014) Comparing population attributable risks for heart disease across the adult lifespan in women. Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-093090.
2 Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee IM, Nieman DC, Swain DP (2011) American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jul;43(7):1334-59. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb.