Staying Active Contributes to Heart Health and Brain Health, Even at 70

senior couple staying activeStay active—no matter how old you get. The more active you are, the less likely it is that you will develop heart disease.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study1 that investigated the link between physical activity and heart and brain health in older adults. Exercise can improve heart and brain health in adults by lowering risk factors such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. However, regular exercise is equally as important in the elderly, who are over 70 years of age.

In this study1, the researchers followed a group of 4,207 men and women for ten years. The average age of the participants was 72.5 years, and no participant had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease when the study began.

The researchers measured physical activity of the participants in the laboratory yearly with assessments of their walking habits including walking pace and walking distance. In addition, the participants reported their leisure activities in a questionnaire completed several times over the ten year period. The questionnaire asked questions about fifteen activities including hiking, biking, gardening, raking leaves, and mowing the lawn. The researchers wanted to see if there was a link between the amount of exercise and the number of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, heart disease, or stroke.

These findings demonstrated that the more you exercise, the less likely it was for a cardiovascular event to occur. For example, participants who walked faster than three miles per hour were half as likely to experience a cardiovascular event as participants who walked slower than two miles per hour.

Exercise is important for everyone, especially older adults because it helps maintain muscle mass and joint mobility. The ability to perform physical activity decreases with age and elders may no longer be able to exercise with as much intensity or for as long as they used to. This means that less intense forms of exercise including household chores such as gardening or raking leaves become more important to overall heart health.

Here are some tips for seniors to maintain heart health through exercise:

  • Participate in moderate activities such as walking, biking, and swimming
  • Engage in household chores like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and gardening
  • Break down your exercise routine into manageable ten-minute segments several times per day

Remember, regular physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke at any age!

Next Steps:

References:

  1. Soares-Miranda L, Siscovick DS, Psaty BM, Longstreth WT Jr, Mozaffarian D. Physical Activity and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Circulation. 2016;133(2):147-155. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018323

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