Benefits of Exercise on Blood Pressure and Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation

Senior Citizens, exercise v2Junxiu Liu, MD, of the University of South Carolina published an article in the September 15 , 2014 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showing that exercise and improving fitness levels prevented an age related expected rise in patient systolic blood pressure. His study followed 14,000 men for 35 years. Sedentary men started to see their systolic blood pressure rise at about age 46. Men who were fit delayed this rise in blood pressure until they were 54 years of age. The effect on the diastolic blood pressure was even more pronounced when looking at fitness levels. Men with low fitness ratings elevated their diastolic blood pressure to above 80 by age 42. Those men with a high fitness level did not see the rise in diastolic BP until they were beyond age 90. His research suggests that “highly fit men are likely to reach abnormal BP readings a decade later or more than sedentary men.

In an unrelated study published in the same issue, researchers in Texas found that regular aerobic exercise prevented the hearts left ventricle or main pumping chamber from developing stiffness. The stiff ness of the ventricle contributes too many common cardiovascular conditions effecting older patients. They found that low levels of casual lifelong exercise such as four (4) sessions of 30 minutes per week throughout adult hood was sufficient to keep the ventricle from stiffening.

Marco Perez, MD of Stanford University looked at exercise levels in women and the development of the heart arrhythmia atrial fibrillation. He found that sedentary women were much more likely to develop this pathologic arrhythmia than women who exercised regularly. Obesity and being overweight is a risk factor that increases your chances of atrial fibrillation. Regular exercise by obese women reduced this risk by about nine percent (9%).

The message is very clear that keeping moving and being active improves your blood pressure control and reduces your risk of developing many cardiovascular related problems. My advice is find some activity you enjoy doing and make sure you try it several times per week to gain the natural benefits the exercise provides.

Fitness in Mid-life Leads to Less Illness in Later Life

Woman with DumbbellsAt doctor/patient visits, physicians stress the importance of developing and following a healthy lifestyle. That healthy lifestyle includes eating correctly and in moderation, controlling your weight, going for periodic benchmarking checkups and getting regular and consistent exercise. An untold number of research studies have supported these recommendations.  Medpage, the online medical journal of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine printed two reviews of studies which confirm the findings.

Ambrish Pandey, MD, of the prestigious University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas with his colleagues presented data that links fitness in your fifties with a reduced risk of cardiovascular heart failure in later life.  They looked at 9,050 men and women with an average age of 48 and followed them for a period of eight years. They evaluated their fitness at entry into the study and eight years later. They followed patients for 60,635 patient years.  

Their findings were quite simple. Those people who exercised regularly and improved their fitness over time had less heart disease and heart failure. They proved that your risk of cardiovascular disease in your sixties and seventies was modifiable based on your fitness level and effort to improve it and sustain it.

Susan Lakoski, MD, of the University of Vermont in Burlington looked at fitness in men in their fifties and concluded that “physical fitness reduces the risk of lung and colorectal cancer”.  She pointed out that if fit men developed cancer they tended to have a higher survival rate than unfit men. Interestingly, her study suggested that weight was NOT the issue.  Overweight men who were fit did well, while unfit lean men did not do as well.

It is refreshing to have data to back up the recommendations we make to our patients – find some form of exercise they enjoy and keep doing it, frequently and repeatedly if you wish to have fewer health issues to deal with as you age.

Modest Jogging Extends Lives

As part of EuroPrevent 2012, researchers presented data from the 19,780 participant Copenhagen Heart Study that evidenced individuals who jogged for at least one hour per week, at even a very modest pace, extended their healthy life.  For men who jogged, the increase in life expectancy was at least 6.2 years, while for women it was 5.6 years.  The study noted that joggers experienced a 44% reduction in death risk over 35 years.  In addition, the study recognized a mere 122 deaths among joggers in the 35 years under review, while the non-jogging group suffered 10,158 deaths.  The lead researcher talked about the joggers living a healthier, happier and higher-quality life.

The authors felt that the benefit was even more profound in seniors who began jogging at, or over, age 70. It is important to note that before anyone begins a jogging or exercise program, they need to see their medical doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of these activities.