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You've heard the old maxim: Consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen. Ever wonder why the doctor needs to give you his or her say?
Antonio Urbina, MD, an HIV specialist at St. Vincent's Comprehensive HIV Center in Manhattan, says the physician's role in this case is to screen for patients who might have underlying heart or lung conditions. Left untreated, a major blockage in your heart, for example, could lead to a heart attack, especially if it's exacerbated by exercise.
All patients over 40 should undergo screening tests for cardiovascular conditions before beginning to exercise, especially if they have family -- or personal -- histories of heart disease. The doctor will also want to know if you've experienced shortness of breath or chest pains.
Younger people are less at risk, but it's a good idea to discuss exercise plans and the history of your family's health with your physician, just in case there could be complications that you might not have thought of.
The very good news is that exercise reduces the chance of heart attacks overall -- even if you've already had one.