The Alarming Statistics of Heart Disease
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
- Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the U.S. and each minute, more than one person in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.
- Approximately 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, accounting for 1 out every 4 deaths. About two-thirds of heart disease deaths occur in people age 75 and older.
- An estimated 85.6 million American adults have one or more types of heart disease. Of these, 43.7 million are estimated to be over 60 years of age.
Though heart disease risk increases with age, what is equally alarming is making healthier lifestyle changes can lower its likelihood.
In fact, high blood pressure (hypertension), high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are significant heart disease risk factors with potential to be modified, and about half of Americans have at least one of the three risk factors. Additional lifestyle factors also place people at a higher risk, including a poor diet and physical inactivity.
Exercise to Prevent Heart Disease
Whereas the American Heart Association’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes of exercise on a weekly basis is well-known, new research published in the Journal of Physiology pinpointed the exact number of exercise each week to deter the heart and blood vessels from aging.
Researchers examined a group of 102 individuals over the age of 60 who had a consistent, lifelong exercise history. The participants were then divided into four groups based on exercise frequency over their lifespan: sedentary (< 2 sessions/week), casual exercisers (2 to 3 sessions/week), committed exercisers (4 to 5 sessions/week), master’s athletes (6 to 7 sessions/week plus regular competitions). Researchers also measured arterial stiffness, which tends to harden as we grow older and makes us more susceptible to heart disease, especially if inactive.
Ultimately, the data showed exercise training over a long period of time can slow damage to arteries and aging of the heart. More specifically, researchers discovered exercising for 30 minutes two to three times weekly shows to keep middle-sized arteries (suppliers to the head and neck) from aging, while larger arteries (sending blood to the chest and abdomen) benefit from four to five weekly exercise sessions.
Although the researchers address a larger data pool is warranted, a study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society investigated the impact of exercise on heart disease risk at a much greater scale. After assessing lifestyle habits (including smoking and physical activity levels) of over 2,400 Finnish men and women over the age of 65 between the years 1997 and 2007, researchers found moderate to high levels of exercise lowered the risk of heart disease and death from all causes, including heart attack and stroke.
Exercise Tips for Seniors
General recommendations endorse at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercises five times a week, which may include brisk walking, swimming, and biking. Seniors should also include a minimum of two strength-training sessions to their regimen for healthy weight loss and muscle mass preservation, along with always including a warm-up and a cool-down to reduce the risk of injury.
Particularly if fairly inactive, start small and work your way up to greater intensities and lengthy exercise bouts. For those living a sedentary lifestyle, incorporate moderate activity into daily life, including taking a brief walk or working in the garden.
But before starting any sort of exercise regimen, always speak to your doctor to confirm safety and effectiveness of the program. Your doctor will also be able to craft a cardiovascular disease prevention program targeted for you, considering lifestyle factors of diet, smoking cessation, and stress management.