If you have had angioplasty and your doctor does not already have you in as supervised exercise program, ask when you can start. In one study from Bern, Switzerland, researchers showed that a three-month exercise program can increase blood flow to the heart in people who already have their coronary arteries blocked by plaques (European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, April 2007). The study participants were selected from patients who had stents inserted to widen blockages in their coronary arteries. The longer and harder the subjects were able to exercise, the greater the increase in blood flow.
The blood flow to the heart muscle comes primarily from arteries on the outside surface of the heart. Chest pain with exercise is usually caused by narrowing of these arteries, which prevents adequate amounts of blood to flow to the heart muscle. The heart muscle then suffers from lack of oxygen and hurts. A heart attack occurs when plaques that coat the inner lining of arteries leading to the heart break off and travel down the ever- narrowing artery until they completely obstruct the flow of blood to a part of the heart muscle. Then part of the heart muscle that is deprived of oxygen dies and a person suffers a heart attack. People with damaged coronary arteries are at higher risk for heart attacks during exercise, so the study participants were checked for blood flow to the heart before and after the program, and were monitored during exercise by professional personnel.