Doing this activity 1 hour a week lowers heart attack risk by 70 percent

You no doubt know that aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, and swimming can help your heart. But now it looks like strength training may be just as important for your ticker, according to research from Iowa State University. The best part? You only need to do it for about an hour a week.

In the study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers analyzed the health, hearts, and exercise habits of more than 13,000 adults. They were focusing on three health issues: Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events that weren’t fatal; total cardiovascular events including deadly ones; also, death from all causes. Watch for the 7 silent signs of a heart attack.

The researchers discovered that people who regularly strength trained had a much lower risk of all three conditions. In fact, lifting weights for less than an hour per week could reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke by a staggering 40 percent to 70 percent. “People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two (daily) sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective,” Duck-chul Lee, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology, said in a press release.

Lee says the findings suggest you don’t have to hit the recommended aerobic-exercise guidelines—30 minutes a day, most days of the week—to lower your heart disease risk. “The results are encouraging,” he says, “but will people make weightlifting part of their lifestyle? Will they do it and stick with it? That’s the million-dollar question.” Lee did note that while cardio exercise is easier to incorporate into one’s lifestyle, it is essential to attempt to find some time to also participate in resistance training. This can include daily lifestyle activities like gardening or lifting heavy shopping bags. Next, find out 15 more heart attack prevention tips you should know.

Symptoms to look out for:

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Silent signs of a heart attack
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Silent signs of a heart attack

Fatigue

Dr. Stacey E. Rosen, MD, a Go Red For Women cardiologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System, says this is one of the most common symptoms she sees (especially in women heart attack patients). “In my 25 years of practice, people on the verge of a heart attack report feeling tired and not able to do their usual activities,” she says. During a heart attack, blood flow to the heart is reduced, putting extra stress on the muscle, which could make you feel exhausted, according to WebMD.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to do an electrocardiogram (EKG), which checks heart activity. “Sometimes when people present with lethargy, doctors won’t immediately order an EKG, which can detect a heart attack; but you should request one from your doctor, just to be safe,” says Annapoorna Kini, MD, of The Mount Sinai Hospital. Here are some other tests for your heart that could save your life.

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Soreness in the back, arms or chest

Noticeable pain or soreness in the back, chest, or either arm is often a silent heart attack sign. As MyHeartSisters.org explains it: “When heart muscle cells begin to run out of oxygen during a heart attack because of a blocked artery preventing oxygenated blood from feeding that muscle, they begin to send off pain signals through the nervous system. Your brain may confuse those nerve signals with signals coming from the arm (or the jaw, shoulder, elbow, neck or upper back) because of the nerve proximity.”

Because the pain is often not accompanied by the typical chest heaviness associated with heart attack, people tend to ignore it, says Dr. Rosen. “I’ve had patients say they only felt the pain when they were working out, so they assumed it was just from exercise, but that’s not right,” says Rosen. “If the symptom is something new, that’s worrisome and you should see a doctor.” Here are some non-medical signs you might be at risk of a heart attack.

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Shortness of breath

If a flight of stairs up from the subway is usually no problem, but suddenly you find yourself gasping for air at the top, it could signal a heart attack. “Women especially tell me that walking up steps or carrying groceries they noticed feeling fatigued or breathless when they normally wouldn’t,” says Rosen. If you feel short of breath right after waking up, that’s also a sign that something could be wrong, says Dr. Kini. The heart plays a key role in transporting oxygen to the rest of your body and removing carbon dioxide from tissues, so blocked blood flow to the heart could affect your breathing, according to MayoClinic.com. Here are some other ways heart attack symptoms are different for women.

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Heartburn or belching

If you have an occasional heartburn flare-up after a heavy pizza lunch, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but if it’s out of the ordinary or heartburn has never bothered you before, call your doctor because it could signal a heart attack. Angina, a heartburn-like chest pain, is caused by lack of blood flow to the heart, which is what happens during a heart attack, Ryan Madonick, MD, a gastroenterologist, told Health.comHere are some other reasons you shouldn’t ignore heartburn.

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Stomach upset

Heart attack symptoms can sometimes mimic stomach problems like nausea, vomiting, or overall GI upset—especially in women, says Dr. Rosen. “If you don’t feel well, always call your doctor. It could be that taco you had at 10 p.m. but it can also be a heart attack, which could turn out to be catastrophic,” she says. Learn the possible explanations behind several types of stomach pain.

Throat, neck or jaw discomfort

Unexplained discomfort of the neck or jaw, or a tightness in the throat you’ve never felt before, can indicate a heart attack, says Dr. Kini, and you should immediately contact a doctor. It’s especially important for people with diabetes to pay attention to subtle changes like this because they have trouble feeling sensations, says Dr. Rosen. They’re less likely to feel more typical symptoms like chest pain. Here are some other potential complications diabetics might have, and how to prevent them.

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An overall feeling that something's wrong

“Heart attack patients have told me they have a feeling of doom—like something’s just not right,” says Dr. Rosen. “Listen to that little voice in your head. If something feels off, it’s always better to be overly cautious and call a doctor.” Dr. Rosen says some of her patients have reported feeling “less mentally sharp” right before a heart attack. Here are some everyday ways to reduce your risk of a heart attack.

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