Even in your mid-40s, your heart muscle can show signs of aging — especially if you are sedentary. A recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation suggests getting in shape may help restore an aging heart for those in midlife, as well as help prevent heart failure later on.
“More than 5 million Americans currently have heart failure, a number that increases every year,” says Dr. Jay Pandhi, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “What we know is that age and a sedentary lifestyle increase this risk even more.”
While the incidence of heart failure can be reduced by regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet, the American Heart Association anticipates a 46 percent increase in new cases by 2030.
Risk factors of heart failure include:
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Poor diet and lack of physical activity
“This study in particular discussed the benefits of exercise and how it can reduce the stiffness of the heart,” says Dr. Pandhi. “The left ventricle is the main pumping chamber of our heart. As we get older, and if we don’t exercise, it can get pretty stiff, which can result in less output of blood throughout the body.”
While the study analyzed a small group of individuals, it does reinforce the fact we already know — moderate and consistent exercise is good for our hearts.
Heart-healthy exercises include:
- Walking or running
- Jumping jacks
- Standing up and sitting down from a chair
- Walking up and down stairs
“Doing any kind of exercise can help improve heart health,” says Dr. Pandhi. “I recommend my patients start with simple walking programs — 5 to 10 minutes a day — and then increasing that to at least 30 minutes a day; anything to get you started and something you can maintain.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Jay Pandhi about the link between exercise and heart health for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.