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Your skeletal muscles can repair themselves after an injury—pull your calf muscle and, after a few days or so, it heals. Until recently, it was believed that the human heart didn't have this capacity. But some exciting research indicates that the heart does, indeed, have some ability to make new muscle and possibly repair itself. The rate of regeneration is so slow, though, that it can't fix the kind of damage caused by a heart attack. That's why the rapid healing that follows a heart attack creates scar tissue in place of working muscle tissue.
Walking (and other forms of aerobic exercise) after a heart attack does several things. It strengthens the remaining heart muscle. It keeps your arteries flexible, which makes it easier for your heart to pump blood through the thousands of miles of the circulatory system. It also helps fight atherosclerosis, the process that most likely led to your heart attack. This is crucial, because it is not the heart attack you just had that you should worry about—it is preventing the next one. Exercising five times a week is a great way to do this.
ACE inhibitors and cardiac rehab help strengthen the heart and improve endurance after a heart attack. In this video, Alvin Haynes, MD, of Regional Medical Center of San Jose explains more about the "remodeling" of the heart.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.