Heart conditions affect more than half of all Australians at some point. Some heart conditions are so common that they're referred to as "cardiac risks." Others, however, are much rarer and present a greater risk to a person's health.
According to the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, an estimated 1.2 million Australians aged 18 or older (over 6% of the adult population) had one or more conditions related to heart, stroke, or vascular disease in a survey conducted in 2017/18, with over 100 heart-related events recorded every day.
In the same way, you can only see a dent in a car when hit; you can only see a heart condition once the heart has started to show signs of trouble. As long as the heart is working normally, you will not be able to see any potential conditions you may have. Therefore, there is the potential for the prevalence of heart conditions to be much higher than is officially recorded, simply because we only see the heart condition once a problem has arisen.
If we think of the heart as a pump, it's a muscle that needs exercise to stay healthy and work efficiently. If you don't exercise your heart, it can weaken and become less efficient.
It's essential to maintain a healthy heart by eating a diet low in sugar and fat, exercising, managing stress, and reducing your risk factors for heart disease.
The human heart is a fantastic machine. It is wholly responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and regulating blood pressure and digestion. But this organ isn't perfect. It has a few distinct weaknesses and conditions that can weaken or damage it. Some common heart conditions include:
Angina is a condition that occurs when your heart doesn't get enough oxygenated blood. It may feel like heavy pressure or squeezing in your chest, and the discomfort also may appear in your shoulders, one or both arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina pain may even feel like indigestion.
Angina can indicate coronary artery disease (CAD), which happens when there is arterial plaque buildup. Plaque can narrow and block the coronary arteries and reduce blood flow to your heart muscle.
Angina can be caused by exercise or stress. If plaque buildup becomes severe, it can lead to a heart attack. It doesn't always mean you have a heart attack. But it's a warning sign that you may have CAD.
Heart attacks are a type of ischemic heart disease that can cause significant damage to your heart. If you experience a heart attack, your heart muscle suffers a sudden and total lack of blood supply, which causes cells to die and become damaged. If you survive a heart attack, your risk of another one is significantly increased.
The most prevalent signs of having a heart attack are:
• Pain in the chest
If you have any of these symptoms, you should call a doctor immediately. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your chance of survival.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that are usually caused by problems in the heart's electrical system. Examples include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, persistent atrial tachycardia, and ventricular arrhythmias (including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and ventricular tachycardia). If someone has one of these conditions, it's called cardiac arrhythmia. The most common symptom of arrhythmia is a feeling of discomfort, pressure, or pressure in the chest.
However, some people don't experience symptoms at all. In most cases, an arrhythmia only causes mild discomfort. However, some conditions can be severe. If you have any concerns about the rhythm of your heartbeat, you should talk to your doctor.
Heart failure is where your heart has been badly weakened to the point that it can't pump enough blood to serve your body's needs. In this condition, the heart beats fast but doesn't get enough oxygen to your body. As a result, you may feel tired and fatigued, experience shortness of breath, have an increased heart rate, and feel dizzy.
There are so many risk factors for heart failure. These include:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol levels
• Sedentary lifestyle
If left untreated, heart failure may lead to death. If you have any of these, talk to your doctor about ways to prevent or manage them.
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are birth defects that develop in the first few weeks after conception. They're the most common type of heart condition in newborns.
There are so many types of congenital heart defects. Still, the most common are ventricular septal defects (VSDs) and atrioventricular septal defects (AVSDs).
Both of these conditions can cause your heart to be under-sized and under-developed, which can lead to heart failure if left untreated.
If you have a suspected birth defect in your heart, you should talk to your doctor. Genetic testing may help determine the cause of your heart condition and can guide your treatment.
Atrial fibrillation (or "fluttering of the heart's atria") is an irregular heartbeat caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart's upper chambers. If left undiagnosed and untreated, this may manifest into heart failure, so it's essential to get it diagnosed as soon as possible.
Atrial fibrillation usually causes no symptoms. However, some people develop a condition called "atrial fibrosis" or "atrial scar tissue" after the arrhythmia is diagnosed. This is characterized by severe chest pain or pressure. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
If your doctor suspects atrial fibrillation, they usually recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. An ECG can help diagnose atrial fibrillation and detect any other heart conditions you may have.
Bacterial or Viral Infections
Bacterial or viral infections can damage your heart. Bacterial infections can cause heart valve disease, sepsis, or endocarditis.
Viral infections can cause damage to your heart muscle. You should seek medical attention immediately if you have any bacterial or viral infection symptoms, such as a fever, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Your doctor may also order a test to rule out a heart condition.
Who is more likely to suffer from a heart condition?
Various factors can contribute to an individual's risk of developing a heart condition and are commonly called Cardiac risk factors. These are factors that increase a person's chances of developing a heart condition, including:
• Lifestyle choices
• Health history
Some groups of people, such as those with a family history of heart disease or smokers, are far more likely to develop a heart condition than others who dont. However, even people without any known risk factors can develop heart problems. Some risk factors aren't necessarily harmful, but when combined with other risk factors, they can cause a person to develop a specific heart condition. Some risk factors can be changed through healthy habits, while others can only be treated with medication.
People who have a high risk of heart conditions are those with other risk factors that include:
• Being over age 50 - The risk for heart disease increases as people age.
• Being male - Males have a four to five times greater risk of heart disease than females.
• Having hypertension - People with high blood pressure have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
• Having diabetes - People with diabetes have an increased risk- especially if they have Type 2 diabetes.
• High triglycerides - High triglycerides are blood lipids that can increase a person's risk for heart disease.
A heart condition is abnormal heart rhythms, structure, heart valves, or heart inflammation. There are many heart conditions, but the most common ones are related to the heart rhythm, electrical conduction, or blood flow.
The heart is a muscle that sits behind the sternum that pumps blood to all body parts. When there is a heart condition or a heart incident, it will display as symptoms of a problem, such as:
A weak heart means that the heart is not able to pump blood around the body as efficiently as it should. A weak heart can result by many different things, such as blockages in the arteries, heart valve problems, or an irregular heartbeat. A weak heart can also be an alert of heart failure, which is when the heart cannot pump the amount of blood it requires to meet the body's needs.
High Resting Heart Rate
A high resting heart rate (tachycardia) can be caused by a heart condition, such as an arrhythmia. When your heart is beating too fast, it may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. This can cause someone to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or faint. A high heart rate can also cause your heart to work harder than normal and lead to heart failure.
Rigid Blood Vessels
When you have a heart condition, your heart may not be able to pump blood as efficiently as it should. This can result in a build-up of pressure in your arteries and vessels and make them narrower and more rigid. This lack of flexibility makes it harder for blood to flow through them and can cause your blood pressure to increase. Over time, this increased pressure in rigid vessels can damage your circulatory system and lead to heart disease.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often a symptom of a heart condition because it is a result of the heart working harder to move blood around the body. When the heart is not pumping blood efficiently, it puts strain on the vessels and organs throughout the body, which can lead to high blood pressure. The extra effort required to pump blood can cause the blood pressure to rise. In some cases, high blood pressure can also be a sign of an underlying problem with the heart, such as coronary artery disease.
Decreased Stroke Volume
A decrease in stroke volume is a symptom of a heart condition because it means that the heart is not pumping and moving as much blood as it should be. This can be caused by a number of things, including blockages in the arteries, heart failure, or other problems with the heart. If you experience a decrease in stroke volume, it is important to see a doctor so the cause can be determined and then treated.
It is best to exercise under the guidance of your cardiac specialist. If you live with a heart condition, it doesn't mean you need to give up exercise entirely for the rest of your life. Exercise can improve heart health. Any aerobic exercise, land or water, can lower the resting heart rate. However, exercising in the water has even more significant benefits for heart health and many heart conditions. Studies have clearly shown that water immersion helps to decrease blood pressure for a range of medical conditions. Just showing up and getting into the pool lowers blood pressure. Blood pressure decreases because water immersion relaxes the blood vessels so they can carry more blood while presenting less resistance to the heart pumping blood. With regular aquatic exercise, the blood vessels become more pliant and supple.
Hydrotherapy had been considered potentially dangerous in heart failure patients due to the increased venous return caused by the hydrostatic pressure. However, it is now known that cardiac function actually improves during water immersion largely due to the increase in early diastolic filling and decrease in heart rate, improving stroke volume and ejection fraction.
Heart Rate Monitoring
When you are exercising in the water, you can manage your effort and monitor your real-time heart rate to exercise under the guidelines of your cardiac specialist while improving heart health.
Please note that Bluetooth doesn't work underwater. Most Fitbit's and Apple Watches are unreliable and inaccurate for this real-time heart rate monitoring purpose in the pool. The most reliable live heart rate monitoring is from a specialised water monitor from your temple. Water Resist has a number of these available. Please contact us in advance if you would like to use one in advance of your session.
Who can benefit from Water Therapy for the Heart
Water exercise helps healthy individuals to strengthen their hearts. However, people with a metabolic syndrome have even more to gain. Those with a metabolic syndrome have a combination of cardiac disease risk factors including excess weight, high blood sugar and blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides, and have much stiffer blood vessels. As a result, the blood vessels become much less effective in contracting and relaxing over time. A US study of individuals with metabolic syndrome (Chris Alexander, May 2017) who participated in a chest deep-water exercise training for one hour a day, three days a week, saw an improvement in blood vessel health improved in just eight weeks.
Overweight individuals are often more comfortable exercising in water because the buoyancy of the water supports their weight, making movement easier. This makes it more likely they will continue with a water-based program.
Blood pressure increases progressively and gradually with age, resulting in a high prevalence of hypertension among seniors. Hypertension affects 3 out of 4 seniors (65+). Hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. A 2017 study from the National Aquatics & Sports Medicine Institute on Water Immersion confirmed that pool exercise at moderate intensity three times a week produced a clinically meaningful reduction in blood pressure over three months. This is because repeated pool workouts reduce stiffening of the blood vessels, a primary factor that causes blood pressure to increase exponentially with age.
The hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes blood out to the extremities, and in combination with more supple blood vessels, stroke volume and cardiac output increase. This means the heart becomes much more efficient at pumping more blood with each stroke. During water exercise, blood flow to the muscles can increase by up to 250%. Blood flow to the brain also increases, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the brain and improving alertness. With this kind of blood flow, the heart rate is lowered. Heart rates while exercising in shallow water average approx seven beats per minute (bpm) lower than the same intensity exercise on land, while heart rates in deep water, where more of the body experiences more immersion and hydrostatic pressure, average about 17-20 bpm lower than the same intensity exercise on land. The exact bpm varies depending on many factors like the level of the individual, age, and medical history.
If you do experience chest pains and a high heart rate while working out in the pool, you must signal a lifeguard to call an ambulance but stay in the water because the heart rate will increase when you exit the pool.
Benefits of Water Therapy for Heart Conditions
Working out in the water has many benefits for heart health and help those suffering from a heart condition manage it and live a healthy life. The benefits of water fitness include:
• Making the heart stronger
• Decreasing the resting heart rate
• Making blood vessels more supple
• Reducing blood pressureIncreasing stroke volume.
Water Therapy can strengthen your heart
When exercising in water, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your muscles. This increased demand strengthens your heart muscle, making it more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body. Additionally, the resistance of the water helps to tone your muscles, which can better the output of your heart's efforts.
Water Therapy can lower your resting heart rate
Exercising in water can have many benefits for your cardiovascular health, which can also help to lower your resting heart rate. An average resting heart rate is between 60-80 beats per minute.
When you are exercising in water, your body has to work harder to move through the resistance of the water. This increased effort can help to strengthen your heart muscle and improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, the cool temperature of the water can help to lower your body temperature and heart rate, which can be beneficial if you are struggling with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues.
Water Therapy can make your blood vessels more supple
There are many benefits to exercising in water, including the fact that it can make blood vessels more supple. When blood vessels are more supple, they are better able to withstand the force of blood flow and are less likely to be obstructive to blood flow. This can lead to improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Water Therapy can lower blood pressure
Blood pressure decreases because when you immerse yourself in water, the hydrostatic pressure of the water relaxes the blood vessels to carry more blood out to the body, resulting in less resistance to the heart as it pumps that blood out to the more distal extremities.
Water also naturally has calming effects on the nervous system, which can help lower blood pressure; however, it's the hydrostatic pressure naturally present in water that has the largest impact on lowering blood pressure. A decrease in blood pressure does continue to linger for a while after you get out of the pool.
Water Therapy can increase stroke volume
It is proven that water has a much greater resistance than air. The denser fluid makes activity in the water much harder. With higher resistance comes an increase in the effort required to make the necessary movements for exercise. This increase in effort is responsible for increasing the stroke volume and, therefore, the oxygen intake during exercise.
An Aqua Bike is excellent aquatic equipment that can help to improve heart health and enable exercise.
Aqua cycling is a low-impact workout on a stationary bike in the pool. The water provides resistance, which helps tone your muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, the water's buoyancy supports your body weight. Regular aqua cycling can help to strengthen your heart and lungs and improve your overall fitness level and the intensity can grow with you as your cardio health improves.
A Hydrorider AquaBike has an efficient Flywheel helps increase blood flow rate into the extremities, legs, and lower blood pressure. Aqua cycling can help to make rigid blood vessels more flexible by improving blood circulation and promoting the release of nitric oxide. This vasodilator helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow. This can ultimately help to reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Aqua cycling can help increase your stroke volume by improving your cardiovascular fitness. When you exercise in water, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your muscles. This increased demand on your heart can help to increase your stroke volume. In addition, aqua cycling can also help to improve your lung function and increase your oxygen uptake.
An Aqua Treadmill is another brilliant piece of aquatic equipment that assists heart condition manageability. The water provides resistance and hydrostatic pressure, which can help to improve cardiovascular fitness and lower blood pressure. An aqua treadmill can be an excellent option for someone who wants to improve walking or running with a heart condition.
Heart Rate Monitoring in Water
Both the Hydrorider AquaBike & Hydrorider Treadmill can be used in conjunction with a specialised water heart rate monitor to give a live view of active heart rate and help manage conditions.
Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.