Communication Director/ Universal Hospital Tirana
Summer is here. It’s time to hit the beach. I can’t wait to jump in the water and start feeling that cool silky water around me. Swimming is an excellent workout for my heart. So, why not jump in?
Not so fast. There are certain precautions I know I must take to stay healthy and I want to avoid any and all trips to the doctor. So, I asked around for some practical advice.
Interventional Cardiologist at Universal Hospital Tirana Dr. Onur Erdogmus advised against “just jumping in”, saying: “Often times, the water temperature is quite a shock for your heart – even a normal, healthy heart. Give your heart a chance to catch up and keep you warm. Walk into the water until you are about waist-deep. Then, submerge yourself so your shoulders are under water - briefly. Then come out for 2 minutes before going in and swimming. This will give your heart a chance to start pumping that blood around your body and you will acclimate much more quickly. Better still would be to begin this at home. You can similarly shower briefly in cold water and after two weeks doing this, you will be better prepared for swimming.” He also recommended when getting out of the water to go for a run. The body will warm up much faster than sitting and shivering in a towel. He warned against beginning any exercise without talking to your doctor.
Why? Dr. Onur explained that, contrary to conventional wisdom, when the body touches the cold, the heart begins to work harder to pump blood to all areas of the body as an attempt to warm it up. When our hearts are perfectly healthy, it’s a good idea to exercise them like any other muscle in our body and make them work a little harder – like swimming for 30 minutes every day.
However, if any heart disease is present, exercising the heart may or may not be a good idea. In fact, seeing the heart work under stress is one of the diagnostic tools that not just Dr. Onur uses but many Cardiologists use. This is called an exercise stress test.
During an exercise stress test, patients are hooked up to electrodes connected to heart monitoring equipment to measure a person’s heart activity. Normally, blood pressure and heart activity through an ECG are recorded. Patients are then asked to walk or jog on a treadmill. Through this test, cardiologists can determine the exercise capacity of the heart, appropriate exercise levels in those beginning an exercise program, causes of any chest pain, and they can also identify rhythm disturbances during exercise. There may be other health reasons that a doctor orders this test, but these are a few.
If our hearts are under stress and there’s disease, we may have chest pain or we may faint or collapse. The sea and the ocean would not be good locations for these occurrences. It’s best to be checked out by a doctor beforehand.
Dr. Onur Erdogmus will have free office hours at Universal Hospital Tirana every Friday beginning July 23rd.