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How can I prevent myself from having a heart attack during strenuous activity?

I am 53 years old and about 50 pounds overweight. I started working out recently, at the recommendation of my doctor. I am thinking about taking up running, but I am also afraid of the potential consequences on my heart. I have several friends who have had heart attacks as the result of strenuous activity and as I intend to work out to avoid this from happening to me, I would love to learn how I can exercise and keep my heart healthy at the same time.
You are making some excellent choices to preserve and protect your health for the long term! You are completely correct that losing weight and staying in a healthy weight range is an important part of making sure you don't develop cardiac disease or stroke. It is important to discuss this concern with your doctor. The key to healthy weight loss and heart healthy activity is consistent aerobic activity--something that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up for at least 30 minutes several times a week. However, this does *not* have to be running! Fast walking can be just as effective for weight loss and cardiac health, and if you do not have a background as a runner and are dealing with being overweight at present, vigorous walking or cycling might be more effective because you are less likely to develop an injury compared to running. If you have been talking with your doctor about this, the best thing to do would be to discuss healthy weight loss/activity strategies at your next visit. He or she may even be able to refer you to a physical therapist or personal trainer who can help recommend healthy ways to get in shape without getting injured. Good luck and this is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.

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