If you’re like most people, the older you get the more concerned you become about developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, new research from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences suggests simple activities — like gardening — can reduce this risk.
Surprisingly, the American Heart Association estimates that if you are a male 45 years or older your lifetime risk of developing CVD is almost 67 percent, while women have an almost a 1 in 2 chance of developing CVD. Cardiovascular diseases currently account for about one-third of all deaths in the United States taking a huge toll on families and economies. It is estimated that 935,000 heart attacks and 795,000 strokes occur each year, and CVD costs are estimated to be $444 billion annually.
The Swedish study, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, monitored the cardiovascular health of nearly 4,000 men and women aged 60 for 12.5 years. Lab tests associated with heart attack and stroke risk — cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood clotting factor —were measured as well as physical examinations completed. In addition, participants reported lifestyle behaviors including diet, daily physical activity, exercise, smoking and alcohol intake at the beginning of the study.
What the researchers observed was that those who were most physically active reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 27 percent and risk of all-cause mortality decreased by 30 percent, when compared with the least active participants.
Remarkably, the physical activity didn’t need to be formal exercise in the gym. Rather, being generally active in daily activities, such as gardening, car maintenance, do it yourself and berry picking, was linked to decreased risk. This is important considering many individuals over age 60 choose not to exercise, but do participate in regular daily activities that require physical activity.
The take away of this study is that seniors can reduce CVD risk by participating in regular daily activities requiring movement. On the other hand, remaining sedentary can disrupt tissue, organ and cellular function, which may lead to ill health and increased CVD risk.