Over 60? Here's an Easy Way to Slash Your Heart Attack Risk Today, Study Says
Picking up this simple activity could decrease your risk of death by as much as 30 percent.
While it's certainly best to start heart-healthy habits early in life, there's no denying that it takes on a whole new level of importance as we age. Unfortunately, when it comes to keeping up with an exercise regimen, the physical changes that come with getting older can sometimes make it more challenging to hit your goals. But according to a study, picking up one simple activity can significantly reduce your risk of heart attack if you're over 60 years old. Read on to see what you might want to consider adding to your weekly routine.
A study finds basic gardening chores can slash your risk of heart attack and prolong your life.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine gathered 4,232 participants who were all 60 years old from Stockholm, Sweden and tracked their health for about 12 and a half years. An initial checkup noted each participant's health habits, including alcohol intake, tobacco use, and typical diet. It also assessed physical activity levels, asking about traditional exercise regimens and other habits over the previous 12 months, including how often each attempted repairs on their cars, tended to their gardens, or picked blackberries.
Researchers also collected data on participants' cardiovascular health through blood tests and physical exams, taking into account blood fats, blood sugars, and blood clotting factors that all indicate an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. By the end of the monitoring period, 476 participants experienced their first heart attacks, while 383 died from various causes.
Results showed that participants who were the most physically active in activities such as gardening, regardless of their levels of traditional exercise, were 27 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. They also saw a 30 percent reduced risk of death from any cause compared to participants with the least amount of physical activity.
Researchers concluded that physical activity such as gardening was important to maintaining health.
The study's authors concluded that staying active through basic movement through activities such as gardening likely helps maintain heart health because it allows the body to use energy. They explain that sitting for long periods can drop metabolic rates to their lowest levels, while the standing and simple movement required to tend a garden or harvest fruit can help increase it.
"Our findings are particularly important for older adults, because individuals in this age group tend, compared to other age groups, to spend a relatively greater proportion of their active day performing [routine activities] as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels," the authors wrote in a statement.
Other recent studies have also found gardening can be a major health booster.
Another recent study, which was also published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on March 19, 2019, also set out to test the effects of leisure-time activity on heart health in older adults. Researchers gathered 88,140 participants between the ages of 40 and 85 from across the U.S. and monitored their health for over 11 years while also surveying their physical activity levels.
Results found that participants who got in 10 to 59 minutes of moderate physical activity per week in activities such as gardening, walking, or dancing had an 18 percent lower risk of death from any cause and a 12 percent reduction in risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. Those who managed to get in two to two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week saw better results with a reduced risk of death from any cause of 31 percent.
Experts say simple movements can go a long way in keeping your heart healthy.
According to experts, while gardening may not get your heartbeat skyrocketing the same way a HIIT class might, the subtle activity can still have a significant effect on your health. "The actual motions involved with digging and raking all involve a lot of coordinated upper and lower body movement that actually increases metabolic rate and can get your heart rate a little bit elevated," Michelle Adams, an instructor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was not involved with the study, told NBC's Today. "Not at an intense level, but at a nice low to moderate intensity level."
Still, the results may not be a sign to ditch the treadmill altogether. In a press release regarding the study, the journal pointed out that the study still found those who did get in strenuous exercise saw better health results than those who mainly stuck to moderate activity.
"Individuals who participated in vigorous physical activities had significantly lower risk of death than those who only did light/moderate physical activity," they wrote. "So the authors recommend … that people short of time should consider more vigorous activities."