Senior Heart Health

Gardening or tinkering around the house can help you live longer with a greater quality of life. According to new research, these activities can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by as much as 30 percent.

A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that adults over the age of 60 who regularly engage in daily activities such as gardening, home maintenance, automotive repair, or berry picking have better overall cardiovascular health.

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Studying the Health of Active Seniors

Researchers at The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences followed the cardiovascular health of 4,000 60-year-olds in Stockholm, Sweden, for about 12 and a half years. During that period, 476 of the participants had their first heart attack and 383 died from various causes.

Those who were active every day had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems compared to those with low levels of daily activity. Overall, these people had smaller waists, lower levels of blood fats, and lower glucose, insulin, and blood clotting factor levels in men.

At the end of the study, researchers found that the highest level of daily physical activity equated to a 27 percent lower risk of a heart attack or stroke, and a 30 percent reduced risk of death from all causes. These results were were the same even if participants did no regular formal exercise in addition to their daily activities.

“A generally active daily life was, regardless of exercising regularly or not, associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults,” the study concluded.

While daily activities helped, those who did exercise regularly had the lowest risk profile of all, researchers said.

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Daily Routines That Can Help Seniors Live Longer

Researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak said that although the study didn’t determine which daily exercises were better than others, in general, any activity that limits prolonged periods of sitting is good. However, she added, it’s important that the exercises you do don’t hurt.

“All activities in daily living which do not harm you are good,” she said. “This is basically because you do it for extended hours, which elevates your energy expenditure and means contractions of the skeletal muscle.”

Besides gardening and DIY, here are some other low-impact activities that could help seniors live longer, healthier lives, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH):

  • Going for a walk at least once a day.
  • Walking the entire mall or grocery store when you go shopping.
  • Hiking through nearby woods.
  • Doing some errands by foot, instead of by car.
  • Practicing standing on one foot and then the other while waiting in line.
  • Signing up for a dance class.
  • Doing gentle stretches regularly.

The NIH says that for activities to be successful, they should be easy, safe, social, interesting, and fun. Most importantly, seniors should make their activities a priority.

Of course, you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine to ensure that you’re healthy enough to do so.

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Benefits Beyond the Heart

A growing body of evidence points to the vital importance of heart health in staving off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and typical cognitive decline associated with age, so active seniors can get double the benefits from regular exercise.

Also, learning new tasks—like doing daily crossword puzzles or mastering Sanskrit—are currently the best known ways to keep your brain young.

A healthy diet filled with fresh vegetables and lean proteins, and low in sugars and harmful fats, have also been shown to provide both physical and mental benefits, regardless of a person’s age.

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