The benefits of exercise throughout life are often touted. But is it safe for seniors older than 65 years to exercise? Absolutely.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, almost all older people can benefit from additional physical activity. Regular exercise prevents chronic disease, improves mood and lowers chances of injury.
With age, the body does take a little longer to repair itself, but moderate physical activity is good for people of all ages and ability levels. In fact, the benefits of your elderly parents exercising regularly far outweigh the risks. Even elderly people with chronic illnesses can exercise safely. Many medical conditions are improved with exercise, including Alzheimer's and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.
Exercise for the Aging Heart
Arteriosclerosis is the underlying cause of most cardiovascular diseases. It causes the heart to work harder to push blood through the narrowed vessels. High blood pressure then develops because of the greater pumping force.
Regular exercise, begun at any age, under the guidance of a physician, can reduce age-related stiffening of the arteries. Aerobic exercise (exercise that improves the body's use of oxygen) can improve the performance of the heart and arteries.
Exercise for an 80-year-old patient may mean a lap around the mall with their caregiver (and people-watching as their caregiver attends to their own well-being with another couple laps). For a 90-year-old, it may mean a daily trip down the driveway to the mailbox.
Even in the absence of weight loss, exercise may help lower blood pressure and the risk of diabetes, improving overall health of the individual and the heart.
In our everyday world, where high fat, high sodium, processed and convenience food is readily available and often preferred, and prescription drugs are marketing to the general public, perhaps not enough emphasis is given to trying to improve lifestyle. Work to take steps to manage the risk of heart disease. Regular check-ups are necessary. Commit to lifestyle changes suggested by the healthcare provider.
These types of proactive steps can help prevent heart disease as the heart ages.
High Blood Pressure
With high blood pressure, the heart works harder, your arteries take a beating, and your chances of a stroke, heart attack, and kidney problems are greater. When high blood pressure is not found and treated, it can cause:
- The heart to get larger, which may lead to heart failure.
- Small bulges (aneurysms) to form in blood vessels. Common locations are the main artery from the heart (aorta); arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines; and the artery leading to the spleen.
- Blood vessels in the kidney to narrow, which may cause kidney failure.
- Arteries throughout the body to "harden" faster, especially those in the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs.
This can cause
- a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
- blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause vision changes and can result in blindness.
Some people can prevent or control high blood pressure by changing to healthier habits, such as:
- Following a heart-healthy diet, which includes cutting down on salt and sodium and eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Losing excess weight and staying at a healthy weight
- Being physically active (for example, walking 30 minutes every day)
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake