Tag Archives: Exercise

Heart Failure and the Importance of Staying Active, even in the Winter Months

Young trainer helping senior woman in aqua aerobics. Senior retired woman staying fit by aqua aerobics in swimming pool. Happy old woman stretching in swimming pool with young trainer.

When thinking of things that are bad for your health, sitting isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind. However, inactivity or sitting for extended periods of time can be harmful to your health. It is especially harmful to those with heart failure. But when many feel cooped up during these winter months, how can you stay as active? Karena A. Sauser, DNP ARNP, from the Cardiology Department at Medical Associates shares more on the importance of staying active and tips to do it safely in the winter months.

For a patient with heart failure, difficulty breathing and fatigue resulting in diminished exercise tolerance are among the main factors that contribute to decreased social and physical functionality and quality of life. Exercise is a safe, non-pharmacological intervention in stable patients with heart failure. Along with medical therapy, exercise has positive effects on both morbidity and quality of life. Remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any form of exercise.

Some patients with heart failure may qualify for cardiac rehab. During cardiac rehab, exercise occurs under supervision with monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. The added responsibility of showing up for appointments gives cardiac rehab patients more motivation to exercise. Cardiac Rehab Programs are offered in the following regional locations: Mercy-Dubuque, Maquoketa, Independence, Anamosa, and Manchester in Iowa; Galena in Illinois; and Darlington, Dodgeville, Boscobel, Lancaster, and Prairie Du Chien in Wisconsin.

However, if your provider tells you it is okay, it is also acceptable to exercise on your own. Just remember to start slow and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workout. You can start with 5-10 minutes/day at a slow pace and increase time and speed as you get stronger. An ideal goal for patients with mild to moderate heart failure is to exercise at least 150 minutes per week (30 minutes 5 days/week or 20-25 minutes daily). It is best to pick activities that you enjoy and are low-impact, such as walking, biking, or swimming. It is important to have a five minute warm-up/stretching period and five minute cool-down/stretching period. Avoid abruptly stopping exercise or immediately sitting or laying down after exercise to prevent dizziness or lightheadedness. It is also important to exercise year-round, even during the bitter cold of winter. If fitness centers are not an option or do not fit into your budget, there are many other heated places to exercise as the weather turns cold. You can always walk in churches, shopping malls, bigger “boxy” stores (like Wal-mart), or at the Mystique ice arena on the upper deck.

When in doubt, remember to follow these tips to exercise safely with heart failure:

  • Avoid exercises that require or encourage holding your breath.
  • Wait at least one hour after eating to exercise.
  • Avoid exercises or actions that require short bursts of energy (interval training).
  • Exercise when you have the most energy. For most heart failure patients, this is in the morning.
  • Think about exercising with a friend or family member. This can make it more enjoyable and social. It also keeps you more accountable/committed.
  • You should be able to talk while you exercise. If not, then you are probably exercising too hard and need to slow down.
  • The day after exercise, you may feel more tired. It is important to balance activity and rest.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme weather conditions. Find safe spaces to exercise that are between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and under 80% humidity.
  • Avoid exercise when you are not feeling well, have a fever, or your heart failure symptoms are not controlled.

One of the most important ways people with heart failure can maintain their sense of well-being is to stay active. The impact of movement, even leisurely movement, can be profound. Remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any form of exercise. Window shopping the mall aisles with a friend, roaming your local museum or art gallery, or stretching and doing some light exercises throughout your daily tasks at home are a few great ways to stay active during the cold months. It all helps burn calories, increase your energy, maintain muscle tone, as well as improve your mental well-being, especially as you age.



Karena A. Sauser, DNP ARNP
Department of Cardiology
Medical Associates Clinic




7 Recommendations for a Heart Healthy 2017

AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, recently said, “This is the perfect time of year for all of us to reflect on our personal health goals and resolve to make healthy lifestyle choices in the coming year.” It is important, as Dr. Gurman said, for people to understand “where they can make the most impactful, long-lasting improvements in their health.” Here are seven ideas to keep your heart health on track for 2017.

1. Limit your consumption of beverages with added sugars. Avoid sports drinks and soda which have over 100 calories of added sugar per container. Try drinking water, coffee, unsweetened tea or other calorie-free drinks instead. When you do drink beverages with sugar, go for milk or all-fruit juices.

2. Know your risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Take a self-screening test now to determine your risk at DoIHavePrediabetes.org. Eating healthier, exercising regularly and losing between 5 and 7 percent of your body weight can help prevent diabetes.

3. Be more physically active. Adults between ages 18 and 65 need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity five days a week, such as walking briskly, bicycling slowly or gardening. Or if you prefer a more intense workout, like running or tennis, 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity three days a week is recommended.

4. Avoid processed food and added sodium. Be mindful of sodium counts in packaged foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, dressings, sauces, soups or gravies. Opt for fresh, frozen or canned foods without any added sauces or seasonings when possible, then try other fresh herbs and spices for flavor.

5. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women over age 21, that means up to one drink a day, and two drinks daily for men over the age of 21, as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

6. Talk with your doctor about tobacco use and quit. Your physician will help you drop the tobacco habit for good with evidence-based, FDA-approved cessation aids.

7. Declare your home and car smoke free to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.


By the Medical Associates Clinic Heart Team
The Department of Cardiology provides a wide range of services including initial evaluation and management of all types of cardiac and peripheral vascular diseases. The Department of Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery provides multiple types of surgical treatment of diseases related to the heart, coronary arteries, major blood vessels, chest, lungs, and esophagus. This department serves as consultants to primary physicians, but will accept self-referrals by patients.


Building Healthy Habits

Make a commitment to yourself to improve your health with better nutrition and healthy habits. Following these simple tips can help you start to live healthier right now!

Changing your diet can sometimes seem very difficult. But making a few small changes can make a big difference. Here are a few ideas to help you get started!

  • Snack on fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are the original fast food, and are full of vitamins and nutrients to keep you full and energized in between meals. A great tip is to keep fruits in a bowl on your kitchen counter. Keeping healthy options in plain sight can make you less likely to grab a less healthy alternative.
  • Make your plate colorful: Use fruits and vegetables to create a bright and colorful plate.
  • Don’t skip breakfast: Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, but make sure you eat something with protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied.
  • Use smaller plates: Trick your brain into thinking you are eating more by simply using a smaller plate. You’ll find you are just as satisfied with less food.
  • Water your body: We know that drinking water is important, but did you know that drinking water can actually help you eat less? Drink two glasses of water before you eat to help you feel fuller faster. And remember to always drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water each and every day!
  • Recreate your favorite meals: A great way to help you stick to eating better is to find ways to cook your favorite meals in a healthier way. For example, if you love pizza, try this recipe for pizza with a cauliflower crust instead of real dough. When you don’t have to completely give up your favorite foods, you’ll be more likely to stick to your diet.

Whether you’re new to exercise or haven’t been active in a while, starting to exercise can feel like an intimidating undertaking.

  • Prepare: Make sure you’re well prepared with the items you need to succeed, like proper shoes and a BPA-free water bottle.
  • Make time: Finding the time to fit exercise into your schedule can be difficult with hectic schedules. Make it a part of your daily routine by scheduling it for the same time every day, and at a time that is convenient for you and your family.
  • Set goals and track your progress: Set reasonable goals for yourself and make a plan to work towards them. Track your progress, whether it’s on a mobile app or with a notebook, and celebrate your successes!
  • Have fun: Probably the most important part, is to find a type of exercise that you love to do. Keep yourself entertained during your workout by asking a friend to join you, or by listening to your favorite music.

Stopping Bad Habits
Many of us have habits we don’t like to admit to, like nail biting, smoking, or cracking our knuckles. Kick those bad habits to the curb with the help of our three tips: make it conscious, write it down and find a substitute.

  • Make it conscious: Identify the habit you want to stop and be conscious of when it happens and what causes it. If you want to stop cracking your knuckles or biting your nails for instance, take note of when you start doing these things.
  • Write it down: Keeping track of when you start biting your nails by writing it down in a log will help to create a baseline, and make you more aware of your habits. After tracking your habits, evaluate your log and look to see if you can determine a trigger for your habits. Are you biting your nails because you’re stressed? Or cracking your knuckles because you’re anxious?
  • Substitute: Find something that you can do in place of your bad habit. If your habit is knuckle-cracking, find a different way to keep your hands busy!


For more information on how you can start building healthy habits, visit our Treating You Well blog, or call your primary care provider at Medical Associates to schedule your annual checkup.