Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does exercise prevent heart attacks during lovemaking?

Yes, and the less often you exercise, the more likely you are to suffer a heart attack during lovemaking or exercise. Researchers checked 14 other studies and found that people who do not exercise, or exercise only occasionally, have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack during exercise or making love (JAMA, March 23/30, 2011). *People who exercise occasionally are three times more likely to suffer heart attacks during exercise than those who exercise regularly, and are five times more likely to die from a heart attack during exercise. *People who do not exercise regularly are 2.7 times more likely to suffer heart attacks while making love.

The more often you exercise, the better the protection. Each additional time a person exercises per week reduces risk for heart attacks during exercise or lovemaking. The chance of suffering a heart attack during exercise is less than two events per 10,000 patient-years. People who exercise only occasionally should check with their doctors, as lack of exercise is a risk factor for a heart attack during any physical activity.

How to Start an Exercise Program

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., March 28, 2011  — If you want to become fit and use exercise to help prevent a heart attack, first check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have anything wrong with your heart or blood vessels. Intense exercise can increase your risk for a heart attack if you already have a damaged heart.

Pick any sport or activity that uses continuous motion (such as running, cycling, swimming, skating, rowing, dancing) that you think you might enjoy. Start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop. For the first several days or weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. If your muscles feel sore the next day, take the day off. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day at a relaxed pace and not feel sore. Then you are ready to begin your training for fitness. Try to increase the intensity of your exercise once a week. Do your jogging, cycling or whatever you have chosen as your sport at a slow pace to warm up. Then gradually increase the pace until you start to feel short of breath and your muscles start to feel sore, and then slow down. Then when you recover, pick up the pace again. Repeat these surges until your muscles start to stiffen and then quit for the day. Take the next day off and go easy the rest of the week. Then once a week, keep on making your one-day-a-week hard workout harder and harder. You will be continuously increasing your level of fitness.

The only way to strengthen any muscle is to contract the muscle against increasingly greater resistance. Your heart is a muscle, so the only way to make your heart stronger is to contract it against greater resistance. When you exercise, you alternately contract and relax your skeletal muscles. This alternate contraction and relaxation squeezes the veins near the muscles to pump blood toward the heart. Your heart is muscular balloon. The increased flow of blood returning to your heart goes inside the heart to stretch the balloon and the heart has to contract with greater force to pump the blood from inside the heart toward the body. The increased amount of blood inside the heart stretches the heart muscle to make it stronger.

The harder you contract your skeletal muscles, the more blood you pump toward your heart, the greater the stretch on the heart to make it stronger. So fitness is determined more by how hard you exercise than by how much you exercise because the harder you exercise, the stronger your heart muscle becomes. Going out and running 100 miles a week slowly does not make you very fit because you are not strengthening your heart very much with a little increase in circulation of blood, no matter how long you do it. Compare lifting a very light weight a thousand times in a row to lifting a very heavy weight 10 times in a row. The person lifting the heavy weight 10 times will become stronger than the person lifting a light weight a thousand times.

Should You Carry Weights while Walking or Jogging?

Gabe Mirkin, M.D. , March 28, 2011  —  The only advantage to exercising while carrying weights is that you can get more exercise while moving slowly. To strengthen your heart, you have to exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute above resting. How fast your heart beats depends on how much blood it has to pump to your body. When you run and carry hand weights, your heart has to pump blood to your exercising leg muscles and also has to do extra work to pump blood to your arm muscles. That means that you can achieve the same heart rate when you run more slowly.

Competitive runners should never carry hand weights. How fast you run in races depends on how fast you run in practice. Carrying hand weights slows you down, so you become a slower runner. Carrying weights also interferes with the natural motion of your arms while running. On the other hand, carrying weights can help to protect people who develop frequent running injuries. Carrying hand weights slows them down, so less force is directed at their leg muscles while they run. Hand weights will not do much to increase your arm strength; to become stronger, you must lift progressively heavier weights.

Should You Breathe Through Your Nose?

Gabe Mirkin, M.D. , March 28, 2011  —  People who exercise with their mouths closed aren’t working very hard. You can’t get enough air through your nose to meet your needs for oxygen when you exercise vigorously. The cross sectional area of the openings in your nose is less than one tenth the opening in the back of your mouth. That space is so narrow that when you pick up the pace, you could turn blue.

You don’t need to breath through your nose when you exercise in very cold weather. Your nose warms the air much more than your mouth does, but exercise causes your body to produce such large amounts of heat that air taken through your mouth at 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit during exercise will be warmed almost 100 degrees before it reaches your lungs. Breathing air that cold hurts so much that you lose interest in exercising and seek shelter.

Your nose clears pollutants far more efficiently than your mouth does, but people with healthy lungs can exercise safely on polluted days. Pollutants that you breathe in through your mouth can be quickly cleared from your lungs. Your air tubes are lined with small hairs, called cilia, that sweep pollutants towards your mouth where you swallow them with your saliva and they pass from your body.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.