Step up to a healthy heart

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February is National Heart Health Month.

The ground may still be covered with snow, and social distancing keeps us home, but did you know there is still plenty you can do to improve heart health?

More than two-thirds of adults ages 60-79 live with heart disease. Today, heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality in the U.S.

One of the most important lifestyle changes to support a healthy heart is physical activity. To quote the Rolling Stones, You Gotta Move!

Move More, Sit Less

Since the pandemic, American adults are becoming more sedentary. Research shows 9.5 hours or more a day of sedentary time increases mortality risk.

American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activities such as brisk walking, mopping, or yard work. That means about 30 minutes of activities a day for five days of the week. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adding muscle-strengthening resistance exercise on two or more days each week.

You may be thinking that certain health limitations or staying indoors make it hard to even consider any moderate-intensity exercises.

Wait, there is good news!

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that even light-intensity physical activities substantially reduce the risk of mortality. All levels of activities count, regardless of intensity.

In other words, for those who are unable to participate in moderate-intensity activities, such as brisk walking, you still benefit from light activities such as cooking, washing dishes, or puttering around the house.

Sit less, move more, and more often. That is much more do-able for most seniors, don’t you think?

Home Exercises

Consider trying these practical exercises you can do at home. Remember, always consult with your doctor before starting any new physical activity routine.

Power walk around the house. Pump your arms and lift your legs to increase cardio benefits.

Chair Squats — Stand in front of a sturdy chair or a couch. With arms extended in front for balance, slowly sit in the chair. Stand back up. Repeat for 5-12 repetitions. You can hold on to another sturdy chair or table for support

Lightweight arm curls – holding a light dumbbell in each hand, lower your arms to the sides of your body. Bend at the elbows and raise the dumbbells towards the shoulder. Repeat for 5-12 repetitions. Start with a 2-pound weight. No dumbbells? Use filled water bottles or canned goods that fit in your hands.

Quiz Your Blood Pressure IQ

Take this blood pressure quiz (https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/) and test your knowledge in supporting a healthy heart. Don’t peek, but answers are at the end of the article.

1. High blood pressure can hurt your health in many ways. Which of these organs can be affected by the condition?

a. Brain

b. Heart

c. Kidney

d. All of the above

2. Why is high blood pressure sometimes called the “silent killer?”

a. High blood pressure makes it difficult to talk.

b. High blood pressure usually does not have any symptoms.

c. High blood pressure does not make any loud noise.

3. Where can you get your blood pressure measured?

a. At the doctor’s office

b. At the local pharmacy

c. At home

d. All of the above

Bottom Line

All adults should sit less, move more and more often. Remember, small exercise goals add to big heart health benefits. Start with any light activity for any amount of time, within your physical ability, and work yourself up.

Written by Cindy Chan Phillips, registered dietitian. Cindy is the contract RD for Oneida County Office for the Aging. Oneida County OFA provides nutrition counseling and education for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456.(Answers to quiz: (1) d, (2) b, (3) d)

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