Posted by: Kirsty | 2012/11/14

Exercising to strengthen my heart

I''m a 23 year old female, and am currently in recovery from anorexia nervosa as well as bulimia. Although my weight is still low (I have a BMI of around 16), I have been gradually regaining weight.
I visited my GP today, as I have been having some breathing problems (I feel as though I often have to take very deep breathes). My iron levels are within the normal range, so it was decided that this was not the cause of my difficulty breathing. My GP therefore decided to check the functioning of my heart by conducting an ECG.
I have previously been diagnosed with arrythmia, but the ECG also indicated that the " QRS"  phase of my ECG was irregular and could indicate that my heart muscle was damaged.
My GP recommended that I start to include some sort of cardiovascular activity into my lifestyle, to strengthen my heart.
I just wanted to know if I should follow his advice, or rather wait until my weight has picked up?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCardiologist

Dear Kirsty

I am sorry to hear about your anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Your breathing difficulties sound very much to me like hyperventilation, which has nothing to do with your heart or lungs and is simply a sign of stress. ECG’s, like witnesses in the witness box, sometimes do not tell the truth, so although I haven’t seen your ECG I would be skeptical about any doubtfully abnormal ECG changes.
Whatever the case, exercise will have very little effect on your heart function. When people get fit by exercising, it is not because their hearts get stronger, but because their muscles become much more efficient and require less blood to function well. Exercise will tend to make your heart slower, but not necessarily stronger. However, exercise is very beneficial in many different ways, so I think that an exercise programme is a very good idea for you. It is worth remembering what ASICS stands for, (the name of the well known running shoe). In Latin it stands for Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.

Best wishes, JT

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