Is Walking the Key to Preventing Heart Failure?
A lot of heart healthy blogs and articles might have you thinking that running, or high intensity exercise, is the only way to prevent heart failure. Running isn’t for everyone—and particularly for senior adults, it can be painful on the joints and knees. Alternative forms of exercise can still benefit older adults, and especially women. Learn more about the link between walking and heart failure prevention.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a bit of a misnomer. Most people are inclined to assume that congestive heart failure refers to a heart that has stopped functioning altogether. This actually isn’t true. The condition refers to a heart that isn’t pumping blood at the proper capacity. Congestive heart failure is caused by either weakened heart muscles or stiff, inelastic muscles. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, so it’s especially important for older women to consider their preventative options.
Heart failure is most common in seniors over 60, and exercise is a vital component of keeping your heart’s muscles strong and flexible. Signs and symptoms may be subtle and include cold hands, a paling complexion and low energy. Research indicates that walking is just as effective as running in terms of cardiovascular benefits. For seniors who often struggle with arthritis or joint pain, this can make all the difference. It’s much more manageable for those with injuries, disabilities or joint pain to walk than run.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a study over the course of six years including 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers. The study aimed to compare cardiovascular benefits of moderate intensity walking versus vigorous intensity running. According to researchers, both running and walking resulted in very similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. This is contrary to the popular assumption that walking “counts” less towards your health than regular exercise.
Walking is also a more convenient form of exercise to incorporate into your daily life. Taking the stairs reliably at work, walking your dog, hitting the mall for some extended window shopping, or parking farther away from work are all ways to incorporate more steps into your routine. Even 30 minutes of walking a day has the power to improve your risk factor. For healthy, able adults, experts recommend 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week and 150 of moderate activity per week.
It’s easy to underrate walking. After all, we do it every day, right? We usually associate exercise with a vigorous workout that requires a trip to the gym or a chunk of our afternoon. But simply walking more with regularity can help senior adults strengthen their heart’s muscles and prevent congestive heart failure. With lifestyle changes like smoking cessation and a well-rounded diet, routine walking can be a valuable addition. To learn more about your risk of congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, visit www.cvgcares.com now to schedule an appointment.