February is American Heart Month, but heart health should never be taken for granted. In addition to the obvious effect of heart and circulatory conditions on the length of our lives, blood pressure and other circulatory issues as well as heart attacks and heart failure, dramatically affect our quality of life at every age.
Medical and scientific studies continue to show strong links between health and lifestyle choices we make early in life and the occurrence of related health conditions in our later years. But that doesn’t mean we’re left to chance as we age.
The good news is that there’s plenty we can do about it.
Even older adults can improve their heart-related outcomes with a few minor additions to their routines. We all know the basics of eating well and not smoking or drinking alcohol to excess throughout our lives, but even a moderate amount of exercise can make a difference for older people.
A study conducted at Tufts University found a significant correlation. Regular moderate activities like walking a normal to brisk pace—about 30 minutes per mile—is strongly associated with a reduced incidence of heart failure in seniors. We’re not talking about a major fitness regimen here, just regular physical activity like walking to the store or around the block and even doing light housekeeping or gardening.
Researchers isolated other lifestyle factors like smoking and diet.
While the study didn’t necessarily prove cause and effect, it’s pretty obvious that heart health is within our control more than we sometimes realize.
Of course, regular exercise is not a license to ignore the other guidelines for heart health like watching our weight, controlling sodium intake and managing other cardio-vascular complications like COPD or diabetes.
Still, it’s good to know that it’s never too late to make a change for the better. And what better time than American Heart Month to remind ourselves and those we care for?