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Activity is good after heart failure

By Dr. Paul G. Donahue, M.D.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I carry the diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Medicines have made me feel pretty good. My wife thinks that I should do nothing. If I do much more than sit, she is all over me. A little bit of activity isn't dangerous, is it? If I don't do something, I am going to turn into a blob of fat. -- R.K.
ANSWER: You're in a boat with 5 million other Americans who have chronic heart failure. Heart failure means the heart doesn't pump enough blood with each beat to supply the body with oxygen. Shortness of breath on slight exertion is a principal sign.
Rest used to be the rule for heart-failure patients. Too much rest, however, deconditions the body and makes it even more difficult for a heart-failure patient to do things that are part of everyday life, like walking and a few household chores.
You have to ask your doctor what limits you should be bound by. If there's a supervised exercise program for heart-failure patients in your area, join it. Many hospitals sponsor such programs. I encourage you to become active. You'll find that regular exercise permits you to do more than you believed you could do.
Congestive heart failure a common consequence of heart disease is discussed at length in the pamphlet on that topic. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue No. 103W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S. or $6 Canada with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: As you can see from my address, I live in the Deep South. I coach high-school football as well as teach two history classes. I worry about heatstroke in my players because of the high temperatures here. Any suggestions on preventing this? -- L.P.
ANSWER: Your concern is justified. Between 1995 and 2007, 25 high-school students and five college students died from heatstroke while practicing football. These fatalities occurred in the first week of practice. It takes a good two weeks for people to acclimatize to heat. My best advice is to consult these Web sites for definitive tips: www.nata.org (NATA is the National Athletic Trainers Association) and www.acsm.org (the American College of Sports Medicine). I'm positive your school has a computer.
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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son is married to a woman who has thyroid problems for which she takes medication. I think it is the type where not enough thyroid hormone is produced. He is 32, and she is 34. They have been married for four years. They both want children. Is the thyroid problem preventing them from having children? -- J.J.
ANSWER: It shouldn't. If you are correct and your daughter-in-law takes thyroid hormone in pill form to correct the hormone deficit, then the problem -- hypothyroidism -- is taken care of. It shouldn't affect her fertility.
Many other thyroid problems exist, so I can't say this with absolute assurance. It depends on her thyroid condition and what kind of medicine she's taking.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. (c) 2010 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved


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