Promoting Healthy Lifestyle and Healthy Heart

Teens and Physical Activity:

Why is physical activity important for me?

  • The American Heart Association cites the importance of physical activity to optimize the health and well-being of children and adults with congenital heart defects (CHD). Because health benefits will be evident from moderate physical activity, health benefits of a physically active lifestyle are within reach of nearly all patients with CHD.1
  • Physical activity helps children and adults strengthen their muscles and stay healthy. Ask your doctor how much and what kinds of physical activity are best for you. Some people who have congenital heart defects may need to limit the amount or type of activity they do.2

How much exercise is safe to do?

  • Children and young adults with heart defects should aim to do 20-60 minutes a day of aerobic or muscular conditioning exercise, 3 or more times a week. The right level of intensity for this exercise should be discussed with your cardiologist.
  • Explore recreational activities that are less demanding than competitive sports. These include after-school sports, those played with friends, and those that do not involve direct contact with others.
  • If your cardiologist feels strongly that you should limit your physical activities, remember to ask the doctor for a note that describes any limits to physical activities. Schools and other groups may need this information.2

What should I keep in mind when exercising?

  • Wear sunscreen and drink lots of water (drink before becoming thirsty!) when it is hot.
  • Try talking to see how hard you are exercising. You should be able to comfortably talk to another person while you are active. You don’t have to be completely out of breath to get fit.
  • Start vigorous activities gradually so your heart, lungs, and muscles get warmed up before you try to do really strenuous activities.
  • Keep breathing when you are active. It’s easy to hold your breath, especially if you are trying really hard. Holding your breath makes your heart work harder so remember to breathe!

Good Nutrition for the Heart:

Teens with CHD should follow good nutritional habits just as any other teen!

In general, here are some tips:3
  • Eat a variety of food - everything in moderation (even the occasional treat)!
  • Eat more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
  • Never skip breakfast – breakfast helps to maintain healthy weight and gives you energy to kick start your day
  • Reduce sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda
  • Always consult with your doctor about any individual nutrient needs

For more tips and meal ideas, visit the following websites!

References:

  1. American Heart Association Scientific Statement
  2. NHLBI - Living With a Congenital Heart Defect
  3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010