Last March, as COVID-19 was dropped on the world, a pair of orthopedic surgeons tugged at the world’s heartstrings through music. Now the “Singing Surgeons” want to help you maintain a healthy heart during February’s American Heart Month.
Dr. Elvis Francois and Dr. William Robinson became viral sensations following their emotional rendition of the John Lennon classic “Imagine.” The Singing Surgeons went on to release an EP of cover songs, “Music is Medicine,” followed by appearances on the “Today” show and “Ellen.”
Dr. Elvis, who was named one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive, was just unmasked as the Serpent on the Fox hit show “The Masked Singer.”
With heart disease being the No. 1 killer in the United States, the Singing Surgeons, in partnership with Lipton teas, just released a second EP of cover songs, “Put A Little Love in Your Heart,” with proceeds going to the American Heart Association.
Heart disease claims 655,000 Americans dying each year, yet there is promising news. Both Francois and Robinson, a pair of dedicated gym rats themselves, say it’s not too late to start working toward better heart health, beginning with a consistent exercise regimen. Science backs their claims as a recent study suggests there’s no limit to cardiovascular health and exercise, with more even reducing the risk by as much as 60%.
“I think our message goes out to those who might not be as tuned into their health when it comes to cardiovascular disease, the silent killer,” Robinson says. “You have no idea that it’s creeping up on you for decades and decades, and a lot of times it’s too late. So our big thing is you can do easy things in the kitchen and in to solve a lot of problems in the future.”
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HEED THE WARNING SIGNS
For those in perpetual beast mode when working out, it’s normal to be dripping in sweat, gasping for the next breath from workout exhaustion. However, for those just getting into a fitness lifestyle should be aware of several warning signs that may be a bit more than just fatigue following an awesome pump.
The Surgeons say if you feel any of these symptoms during or immediately following exercise—pain radiating from your chest and shoulders and into your arms, difficulty breathing during exercise, or the severe feeling of a heavy weight pushing on your chest, drop the weights and get medical attention.
“There are other signs, but these are three good examples in which you should take a step back and check with your health care provider,” Francois says.
Along with checking with your physician, the Surgeons suggest investing in a smart watch that is equipped with a heart rate monitor. While better conditioned athletes may see their heart beats per minute rather high, a good baseline heart rate for beginners, they say, should never exceed 120, with a monitor being a smart way to keep track.
“For well-conditioned athletes, their rates can hit the 150s, 160, 170s,” Robinson says, “but for people beginning a workout regimen, on top of seeing your physician, should be on the lookout for their heart rate.”
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TAKE WARMUP SERIOUSLY
Those extra few minutes stretching or light jogging before going all-in on your workout can go a long way toward keeping your heart primed for strenuous activity. One of the worst workout mistakes, the Surgeons say, is going from zero to 600 in your workout, which can lead to a host of injuries or ailments. A simple five to 10-minute warmup fills your muscles with nutrients and oxygen, helping speed up your heart rate.
“We encourage patients to do a very, very progressive warmup regimen to stretch their muscles,” Francois says. If your muscle aren’t “cold” as you go into a cardio activity, that in and of itself will also prime the heart.”
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NO NEED TO OVERTRAIN
One of the biggest misconceptions of training to this day, the Surgeons say, is that you have to spend hours in the gym to see gains. They point to a study claiming just 20 minutes a day of movement can help reduce heart disease by 50 percent.
“if you took a patient who worked out zero minutes a day, and you allowed them to work out 20 minutes a day, that reduces cardiovascular disease in half,” Francois says. “Just 20 minutes.”
But if you’re pounding the pavement day after day, it could lead to heart problems down the road, as a study pointed to potential long-term impacts including thicker heart walls or even scarring of the heart.
Their tip: You don’t need to wreck your body in order to fix your body.
“If you’re overtraining Monday through Friday, that’s bad for not only your joints, but for your heart,” Robinson says. “So again, the biggest thing for anyone of your readers to, to, to, to keep heat to is listen to your body.”
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PAY ATTENTION TO THE LABELS
The majority of us who’ve hit the gym on a regular basis have chugged pre-workout supplement religiously for that extra pump on leg day, including both Francois and Robinson. You’ve probably then felt the sensation of your heart bouncing off the walls feeling.
By itself, that extreme rush, what the Surgeons refer to as Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC), is a skip of a heartbeat, brought on by an acute caffeine rush or a higher vitamin B dose,
In healthy well-conditioned athletes, the feeling should go away on its own with no worries. But for those with underlying heart disease or conditions like atrial fibrillation, it could trigger other heart issues, including suboptimal rhythm.
The Surgeons advise to keep an eye on what you’re putting into your body, keep an eye on the labels, even switch to something natural, like coffee or a green tea.
“I don’t think it’s been rigorously looked into, so I’d be cautious with that.” Robinson says. “I’ve switched to tea or coffee before workouts. It’s nowhere near the pump pre-workouts give you, but I know at least what I’m putting in my body. So that might be the cautious thing to do.”