Staying active after 65 decreases heart attack risk

Staying active after 65 decreases heart attack risk

Turning age 65 shouldn’t mean retiring from exercise and all of its heart health benefits, says a newly published research study. The new results suggest that people aged 65 and over can reduce the risk of heart attack and improve overall heart health by maintaining or increasing their physical activity.

The study, by a combined team from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the University of Porto in Portugal, was based on five years’ worth of 24-hour heart monitor recordings of 985 adults 65 years and older.

Researchers discovered that people who walked more and faster and had more physically active leisure time had fewer irregular heart rhythms and greater heart rate variability than those who were less active. Heart rate variability, fluctuations in the time between heart beats during normal activities, can predict the risk of future heart attacks and death.

The study results indicate that older adults can reduce heart attack risk by 11 percent, due to beneficial increases in heart rate variability. Furthermore, seniors who increased their physical activity during the study period by upping their walking distance or pace had better heart rate variability than those who reduced their walking distance or pace.

Dr. Mohamad Martini, an Advocate Medical Group cardiologist on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital says that this study reinforces the importance of staying active as we age.

“Regular exercise has many benefits for older adults, and this study underscores the critical value of physical activity on heart health,” says Dr. Martini. “These results give physicians evidence to present to their patients as they urge them to get active and stay that way.”

Dr. Martini says that seniors don’t need to run out and join a fitness club or purchase expensive exercise equipment to increase the health of their heart.

“Walking is a safe, easy way to work exercise into your daily routine,” he says. “Take walks around the neighborhood or local parks, and find some friends to walk with you. Get out there and be active.”

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About the Author

Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.