Practicing heart healthy habits benefits people of all ages. But if you’re living with a chronic heart condition or recovering from a heart attack, you can feel additional anxiety over maintaining your normal daily routine or exercising at all. Did you know that people who complete cardiac rehabilitation programs have a 30 to 40 percent reduction in risk for repeated events? Even without a formal rehabilitation program, regular exercise can help you stay healthy and independent. Learn more below.
Exercise benefits people of all ages, and those with heart conditions are no exception. Adapted from The American Council on Exercise’s top 10 list of reasons seniors should exercise, here are the top five:
1. Optimize heart health
Regular, cardiovascular exercise combined with a healthy diet helps prevent heart disease. But you can still benefit if you have heart problems. Appropriate cardiovascular training can help improve your circulation, regulate your blood pressure and get diabetes under control.
“Exercise programs such as cardiac rehab help guide patients through lifestyle changes such as diet and physical activity,” says Cleveland Clinic Cardiac Rehab Supervisor Michael Crawford, MS. “Performing physical activity in the right way, along with optimizing diet, has shown good improvements with reducing LDL cholesterol, reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol.”
2. Keep diabetes at bay
Regular aerobic exercise also helps regulate your blood sugar levels, which in turn helps manage type 2 diabetes (along with proper diet and medications).
By carefully balancing diet and exercise, you can possibly reduce your dependence on prescription medications for diabetes.
3. Keep your strength up
Weight bearing or resistance exercise builds up your muscle mass. In addition to making you stronger, increased muscle mass can help boost your metabolism and help you lose unhealthy fat tissue.
Strength building exercise is particularly beneficial for seniors who are recovering from heart surgery. Crawford explains, “After heart surgery, a person can lose up to 15 percent of their strength in just one week of lying in bed. Introducing strength (resistance training) at the appropriate time will help recover the loss of strength after heart surgery.”
4. Improve your mood
Ever notice how your troubles seem far away after a brisk walk or bracing swim? There’s a scientific explanation for that. Exercise boosts endorphins, which are the “feel-good” hormones that help elevate your mood. And regular exercise keeps on improving your body and your mind.
Dealing with heart disease isn’t easy. Crawford explains that exercise “gives a person a sense of accomplishment and normalcy.” Cardiac rehab allows heart patients in similar situations to work together toward common goals. “This creates support and well-being for those on their way to recovery,” he says.
Exercise helps you maintain your independence. When you’re stronger, you can do more things for yourself. Instead of relying on others for help, you can maintain more control over your life.
Heart surgery and heart conditions impact people of all ages, but it is especially important for seniors to maintain their strength and capacity to maintain regular activities. Recovery from heart surgery is a lifelong effort. Exercise can be your best ally in being fit, optimistic and self-sufficient.
Remember, always ask your physician before you start an exercise regimen or resume exercise after heart surgery or a heart attack.
If you have questions about care for yourself or a loved one living with a heart condition, call 1.866.CARE.KAH to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At Kindred at Home, we offer cardiac care through home health.