Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Am I exercising too much?

Q. I am an 80-year-old man. Forty years ago I had a heart attack after completing a long hike. I stopped smoking but remained very active, doing a lot of hiking and kayaking. I now walk 2 to 3 miles a day, work out with weights three times a week, and walk up and down 25 flights of stairs twice a week. My blood pressure, with the help of medications, hovers around 125/70; my resting pulse is 55. A year ago I tore my quadriceps tendon, but am now back to my usual activities. My physician thinks I am pushing too hard and has urged me to take it easier. Is he right? Should I follow his recommendation?

A. I congratulate you on being so vigorous and giving your blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall cardiovascular health so much attention. You are living proof that you can survive a heart attack and do extremely well for many decades. The medications and lifestyle changes you have made add up to a big reduction in your cardiovascular risk.

Your blood pressure is close to perfect, and I can only assume that your cholesterol and blood sugar are also in good shape. Obviously, stopping smoking in 1970 was a great idea.

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