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September 2023
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Better Health is a Walk in the Park

Taking a Walk Among the unfortunate slew of diseases that tend to be prominent in the elderly populace is the heart rhythm abnormality, atrial fibrillation. It is the most common irregularity regarding heart rhythm in which the heart’s two upper chambers twitch rather than the expected steady beat. The pooling of blood that can occur causes harmful clots that can make their way to the heart or brain, which could result in a stroke. It can also cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath,
and the general feeling of weakness. Boston researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital set out to find a way in which those in the sixty-five–years and older category could minimize their risk and published their findings in the journal Circulation.

The fact that the team decided to focus on seniors was significant in itself.  As the study’s lead author and cardiologist, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian pointed out, “Prior studies have looked at atrial fibrillation in young and middle-aged and generally healthy people.”  That is to say that atrial fibrillation was discovered to take place within younger patients who maintained a vigorous exercise regime.  However, Mozaffarian believes that regardless of this fact it is necessary to observe this abnormality in the elderly.  “The vast majority of atrial fibrillation occurs later in life. After 65, about one in five people develops atrial fibrillation over 10 years,” he said.

To back up his statement, Mozaffarian and his colleagues gathered 5, 446 participants, who averaged around the age of seventy-three.  Studying their daily routines and habits lead the team to an important link in the development of atrial fibrillation: exercise.

Of course there is no suggestion that those in their seventies and eighties should start going out to pump insane amounts of iron or run marathons.  However, light exercise could be a key way to lower their risk.  The study showed that those walking five to eleven blocks per week had a twenty-two percent decrease in incidence than those walking less.  Furthermore, there was a twenty-four percent decrease in those walking twelve to twenty-three blocks per week, a thirty-three percent decrease with those walking twenty-four to fifty-nine blocks, and finally an impressive forty-four percent decrease with those walking over sixty blocks. 

“No one has looked at exercise and atrial fibrillation in these older people,” Mozaffarian said, regarding his study. “We found that light to moderate exercise, such as walking 10 blocks a week, was associated with a lower incidence of atrial fibrillation.”  

To take the work done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital one step further, Dr. Jose A. Joglar of the University of Texas started his own study in order to determine the effects of exercise in those already suffering from atrial fibrillation.  Joglar has ten participants in their seventies doing forty-five minutes of aerobic exercise per day a few days per week in order to gauge how it helps or hinders atrial fibrillation.  Although the trial is still ongoing, Joglar reports that “preliminary data appears to be that they feel better and function better.”

Regardless of its benefits to atrial fibrillation, the older population should still be participating in light exercise.  It is known to help in controlling blood pressure and weight and keeps one feeling young and energetic.

Related Posts

  1. Walk to Lower Blood Pressure
  2. Study Shows Daily Exercise Can Prevent Colds
  3. ‘Egg’regious Health Hazard?
  4. Health Smarts, Strong Hearts: Study Shows Health Literacy Prolongs Life
  5. Walking may Prevent Vascular Dementia

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