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Jan 23rd 2024

Increased Physical Activity in Seniors Boosts Heart Health

With statistics showing their risk of heart disease increases with age, seniors are constantly reminded to go easy on their heart. So it may seem counter-intuitive, even dangerous, to get more active in retirement.

But can adding in a bit of daily activity or exercise lower that risk and improve overall heart health in aging seniors? That’s what a team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the University of Porto in Portugal recently set out to determine.

As part of a larger community-based study on heart disease risk factors called the Cardiovascular Health Study, 985 adults aged 65 and older wore heart monitors 24 hours a day for 5 years. In the new study, researchers analyzed recordings of their heart rate variability, those time differences between one heartbeat and the next during normal daily activity.

According to researcher and lead author of the study Dr. Luisa Soares-Miranda, when monitoring changes in heart rate variability, scientists can predict the risk of heart attacks and death in aging populations by uncovering early abnormalities in the nervous system that regulates their heart.

Indeed, study investigators found that people who walked farther and faster, or who enjoyed more physically active leisure time, had fewer irregular heart rhythms and greater variability than those who were less active. This resulted in an 11 percent lower risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

“Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age,” said Soares-Miranda. “Our results also suggest that these certain beneficial changes that occur may be reduced when physical activity is reduced.”

Experts say this may explain why working seniors choosing to retire suddenly experience declining physical health. With this new study, researchers warn that slowing down in retirement can even be fatal.

At Beyond Health, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stay physically active as you age. Those who exercise can better manage their weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, mood, and sleep. Plus, exercise lowers the risk for cancer, improves bone health, and fights Alzheimer’s disease.

If you’re a senior 65 and older and are still fairly active, don’t slow down. Instead, maybe even add in an activity, stretch a current activity farther, or pick up the pace a bit.

If you’re not yet physically active, it’s not too late to start. Join a local exercise group designed for seniors. We recommend low impact activities like water aerobics, yoga, dancing, cycling—and we’ve already indicated why rebounding may be the perfect activity for aging seniors. But remember, everyday activities are equally effective, and every extra minute counts. So take the stairs instead of the elevator, do stretching exercises during commercials, get off the bus a couple blocks early, or park farther away from the grocery store entrance.

With a little imagination and extra daily activity, seniors can reduce their risk of heart disease and enjoy better health as they age.






Information contained in NewsClips articles should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.