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Keeping your heart healthy

What can we do for the health of our heart, how much exercise has a preventive effect on our cardiovascular system and with what kind of symptoms should we consult a cardiologist? We asked Dr. Rose Private Hospital’s internal medicine cardiologist, Professor István Préda, who is the author of several books about cardiology, as well as a cardiology specialist at the Health Science Council and a member of the Professional College of Sports Health.

 Why is sport important and how does it affect our cardiovascular system? 

Sport and regular exercise are part of the development of humankind. However, we didn’t really deal with this fact 30-40 years ago, as doctors thought that whoever was sick should be cured with some kind of medicine or pill. There has been a fundamental change in this outlook over the last 20 years, and we have accepted that regular exercise that improves well-being causes beneficial changes in the body that even medicines cannot deliver. In fact, it could be said that sport is at least as effective as medicine in treating and preventing obesity, hypertension, or other pre-existing diseases, such as metabolic disorders. That’s why I want to encourage both the sick and the healthy to move! 

As for what we mean by regular exercise, there are guidelines in this regard, which have also been confirmed by international studies: you should exercise with moderate intensity at least four times a week for 40-60 minutes. This can be a quick walk, jogging or cycling, but it can also be a ball game. In addition, strength training and stretching should be performed twice a week using smaller weights to move and strengthen major muscle groups. These are the basic rules that help in the prevention of not only diseases of the organs, but also cancers such as breast cancer and colon cancer, by up to 30-50%. With regular exercise, we can increase our life expectancy by 4-6 years. 

Do amateur athletes need cardiology tests? 

No medical examination is required to start amateur sports. For people under the age of 40, cardiology is only recommended if they have any symptoms suggestive of heart disease. If this is not the case, then of course it is important to gradually increase the training, with our goal maybe to get the amount of exercise already mentioned: exercising at least 4 times a week for at least 40 minutes, ideally 60-90 minutes. I would highlight running, which is a natural movement, ideal not only for young and middle-aged people, as we can also recommend it in old age if there are no musculoskeletal complaints that would prevent this. 

A cardiology examination is needed if there is a specific complaint, or if we would like to start exercising again after a long rest or illness. 

With what kind of symptoms should we consult a cardiologist? 

If you start to feel breathless more than is usual, or earlier than before, as a result of exercise, or if you have a chest complaint, especially if pain occurs in the left chest, or you experience pain radiating to the left arm which decreases or disappears when you stop exercising. These are the symptoms with which it is worth consulting an internal medicine doctor or cardiologist, who will examine the patient and, in addition to the ECG (electrocardiogram) examination, may possibly order an ECG stress test or an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) too.