Exercise A Great Prescription To Help Older Hearts

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Regular exercise is potent medicine for older adults with heart disease, a new American Heart Association scientific statement says.

Physical activity should be a key part of care for older adults with heart disease who want to reduce their symptoms and build their stamina, said geriatric cardiologist Dr. Daniel Forman. He’s chair of the panel that wrote the new statement.

“Many health-care providers are focused only on the medical management of diseases — such as heart failure, heart attacks, valvular heart disease and strokes — without directly focusing on helping patients maximize their physical function,” Forman said in a heart association news release.

Yet, after a heart attack or other cardiac event, patients need to gain strength. Their independence may require the ability “to lift a grocery bag and to carry it to their car,” said Forman, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

 

“Emphasizing physical function as a fundamental part of therapy can improve older patients’ quality of life and their ability to carry out activities of daily living,” he added.

And, no one is too old to get moving. “Patients in their 70s, 80s and older can benefit,” Forman said.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a crucial tool for elderly patients, providing exercise counseling and training to promote heart health, and manage stress and depression. But Forman said it’s not prescribed often enough.

“When treating cardiac patients in their 70s, 80s and 90s, health-care providers often stress medications and procedures without considering the importance of getting patients back on their feet, which is exactly what cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to do,” he noted.

Daily walking and tackling more chores at home also can be helpful, Forman said. Resistance training and balance training can help prevent falls. Tai chi and yoga employ strength, balance and aerobic features, he explained.

The statement also outlines ways for heart doctors to assess patients’ levels of physical functioning.

The statement was published March 23 in the journal Circulation.

Heart disease in older Americans is a growing concern because the number of people 65 and older in the United States is expected to double between 2010 and 2050.

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Exercise Beats Weight Loss At Helping Seniors Hearts

 

Seniors who want to give their hearts a healthy boost may want to focus on exercise first, a new study suggests.

The research found that getting active may do more for cardiovascular health in older adults than losing weight does.

“Any physical activity is positive for cardiovascular health, and in elderly people of all weights, walking, biking and housework are good ways to keep moving,” study author Dr. Klodian Dhana said in a news release from the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The findings were published in the journal on March 1.

In the study, Dhana’s team tracked 15-year outcomes for more than 5,300 people. Participants were between 55 and 97 years old, and free of heart disease when the study started.

Over the 15 years of follow-up, 16 percent of the participants developed heart problems.

In this group of older people, the researchers found no link between their body mass index (BMI) alone and heart disease. BMI is an estimate of body fat based on weight and height — the higher the number, the more fat.

However, the study did find that physical activity was tied to a lower risk of heart disease, no matter what a person’s BMI was.

“Overweight and obesity is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and it is recommended to lose weight,” said Dhana, who is a postdoctoral researcher at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

However, “in the elderly this is slightly different because weight loss, especially unintentional, is associated with muscle loss and death,” the researcher explained.

She said the study’s authors aren’t refuting the idea that overweight and obesity can raise heart risk in the general population.

But, “our results show that physical activity plays a crucial role in the health of middle age to elderly people,” Dhana said. “Those who are overweight and obese without adequate physical activity are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

Expert guidelines currently recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity to decrease the risk of heart disease, she said.

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

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