Even Housework, Gardening Can Help an Older Woman’s Heart

Think exercise has to be high-intensity to make a difference to your health? Think again. New research shows that even routine housework and gardening can help older women’s hearts.

“For older women, any and all movement counts towards better cardiovascular health,” said Dr. David Goff. He’s director of the division of cardiovascular sciences at the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which funded the new research.

“When we tell people to move with heart, we mean it, and the supporting evidence keeps growing,” he said in an institute news release.

Heart disease remains the leading killer of American women and nearly 68 percent of women aged 60 to 79 have heart disease, according to the NHLBI.

The new study was led by Andrea LaCroix, of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Her team tracked the activity of more than 5,800 U.S. women, aged 63 to 97. Each wore a device that measured their movement 24 hours a day for a full week.

The researchers then tracked each woman’s heart health over the next five years.

The investigators found that even light physical activity — gardening, going for a stroll, folding clothes — appeared to reduce the risk of stroke or heart failure by up to 22 percent, and the risk of heart attack or coronary death by as much as 42 percent.

“The higher the amount of activity, the lower the risk,” said LaCroix, who directs the Women’s Health Center of Excellence at UCSD.

“The risk reduction showed regardless of the women’s overall health status, functional ability or even age,” she added in the news release. “In other words, the association with light physical activity was apparent regardless of these other factors.”

Two cardiologists weren’t surprised by the findings.

“The findings support the American Heart Association’s recommendation to focus on attaining 10,000 steps daily, and the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines, which is in favor of such light physical activity — even in small doses,” said Dr. Eugenia Gianos. She directs Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Guy Mintz directs cardiovascular health at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. He said the new study is superior to older research because those studies tended to rely on people filling out daily-activity questionnaires, which are often inaccurate. Having the women simply wear a device to track their movements is much more reliable, Mintz noted.

As for the results, he estimated that “the cardio-protective benefit of daily light physical activity in older women is similar in magnitude to the event reduction seen with statin [cholesterol] drugs,” Mintz said.

“This study represents a call to action for women of all ages to move. They do not need a membership at an expensive gym, but just a list of chores or activities, to keep busy with each day to lead a healthier and longer life,” he suggested.

It all hearkens back to a simpler — and thinner — era, he added.

“Think of your grandparents cleaning their apartments or homes — dusting, using carpet sweepers, polishing and washing windows, etc. They were a very active generation,” Mintz said.

The study was published online in JAMA Network Open.

Source: HealthDay

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Higher Weekly Activity Levels Linked to Lower Risk of 5 Chronic Diseases

Higher levels of total physical activity are strongly associated with lower risk of five common chronic diseases – breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, finds a study in The BMJ today.

Many studies have shown the health benefits of physical activity. This has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend a minimum total physical activity level of 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week across different ‘domains’ of daily life.

This can include being more physically active at work, engaging more in domestic activities such as housework and gardening, and/or engaging in active transportation such as walking and cycling.

But we still do not definitively know how much the type and quantity of physical activity reduces the risk of common conditions.

So a team of researchers based in the US and Australia analysed the results of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016 examining the associations between total physical activity and at least one of five chronic diseases – breast cancer, bowel (colon) cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke.

They found that a higher level of total weekly physical activity was associated with a lower risk of all five conditions.

Most health gains occurred at a total activity level of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week, with diminishing returns at higher activity levels.

A person can achieve 3000 MET minutes a week by incorporating different types of physical activity into their daily routine – for example, climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for 25 minutes.

The results suggest that total physical activity needs to be several times higher than the current recommended minimum level of 600 MET minutes a week to potentially achieve larger reductions in risks of these diseases, say the authors.

Although they cannot tell us about cause and effect, meta-analyses involving observational research are useful for pulling evidence together. And the authors say their findings have several important implications.

“With population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required,” they write.

“More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity,” they conclude.

In a linked editorial, researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France say this study “represents an advance in the handling of disparate data on a lifestyle factor that has considerable importance for the prevention of chronic diseases.”

But they point out that “it cannot tell us whether risk reductions would be different with short duration intense physical activity or longer duration light physical activity.”

They conclude: “Future studies must streamline their measurement and reporting for real gains in knowledge.”

Source: EurekAlert!

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