Housework, Gardening Boosts Heart Health for Older Women | by heidi

Housework, Gardening Boosts Heart Health for Older Women | by heidi


    A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found that daily life movement makes a difference in preventing cardiovascular disease in women over the age of 62.1

    The research provides an encouraging message: Even if you’re not getting intense workouts, routine activities like chores and gardening are beneficial to your physical and mental health.

     How Heart Disease Is Different In Women

    The new study is part of the larger Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Health in Older Women (OPACH) study.2

    Four Hours of Activity Is the Sweet Spot

    The researchers recruited 5,416 women between the ages of 63 and 97. None of the participants had a history of heart disease at the start of the study.

    The participants’ daily life movements were recorded using a research-grade activity monitor for seven days in a row. The data captured included all physical activity, not just exercise.

    The researchers followed up on the women for an average of 6.5 years to see if they developed cardiovascular disease.

     Women with Heart Disease Get Better Treatment When Their Providers Are Women

    The results showed that the women who got at least four hours of daily life movement had a 43% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to women who got less than two hours.1

    Steve Nguyen, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and lead author of the study, told Verywell that the researchers “hope the results of this study become part of the conversation for encouraging more movement throughout the day for older adults who are unable or uninterested in higher intensity activities.”

     Signs of Heart Disease In Women

    Women’s Heart Health

    Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. It’s responsible for one in five female deaths each year.3

    Postmenopausal women, in particular, are at a higher risk for heart disease because they no longer have cardiovascular protection from the hormone estrogen.

    There’s a noticeable increase in the rate of heart attacks 10 years after the onset of menopause, which typically happens around the age of 54.4

    The chances of getting heart disease can increase as you age, but certain risk factors for heart disease are modifiable.

    For example, a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of heart disease by 42%.5 However, taking steps—literally—to get more active can help lower your risk. 

     Taking Care of Your Heart After Menopause

    Daily Movement

    The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a week.6

    However, that goal can be intimidating and discouraging to many people, especially older adults.

    Any amount of movement is better than none.


    The new study suggests that the physical activity we get from all the movement that we do in a day is just as effective at decreasing heart disease risk as something more intense, like getting on a treadmill.6

    “Light intensity physical activity makes up 69% of daily life movement,” said Nguyen. “It is also recognized as having benefits for heart health. Since daily life movement is something we all do and is safe, we should encourage it more.”

     Experts: Women Need to Make Heart Health a Priority

    Activity as a Vital Sign

    Your heart isn’t the only part of your body that benefits from getting up and about. Common “side effects” of aging like muscle weakness and stiffness can also be eased by moving throughout your day.

    We use activity measures as another ‘vital sign’ like blood pressure and heart rate.


    Eleanor Levin, MD, clinical professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Verywell that “in the Preventive Heart Clinic at Stanford Health Care, and in the Women’s Heart Health Center, we use activity measures as another ‘vital sign’ like blood pressure and heart rate.”

    Levin said that they “encourage activities such as walking in 10-minute increments [and] trying to reach 30 minutes daily. Gardening, housework, and even standing help prevent muscle weakening and frailty.”

     Carbs May Reduce Heart Disease Risk for Middle-Aged Women

    Psychological Benefits

    Chronic stress can take a toll on the whole body, including the cardiovascular system.

    Research has shown that prolonged exposure to the hormones that are part of the body’s “fight or flight” response can lead to negative cardiovascular outcomes, including:

    Increased blood pressure and heart rate

    Irregular heart rhythm

    Reduced blood flow (poor circulation)


     Work and Social Stress Put Women at Higher Heart Disease Risk

    Moving for Your Mind

    Simple daily life movement doesn’t just decrease your chances of heart disease; it can also have a protective effect on your mental health and well-being.

    The positive feedback loop of exercise and movement can boost your mood, decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, and help you have more energy during the day.

    These benefits leave you better equipped to combat stress and make life choices that support your overall health.8

    “Depending on the context of the daily life movement, gardening, and other daily life movements can reduce stress, boost mood, and provide a sense of purpose,” said Nguyen.

     AHA: Mental Health Plays a Role in Treating and Preventing Heart Disease

    Get Moving at Every Age

    While the study was focused on postmenopausal women, the benefits of leading an active lifestyle may apply to people of all ages. In fact, the study authors plan to expand their research to include men and younger populations.The study also had some limitations that future research might be able to tackle.

    For one, the researchers only tracked the participants’ movement for seven days. Also, even though the device they used was research-quality, it still might have made some errors—for example, recording movement when someone wasn’t actually moving.

    Since daily life movement is something we all do and is safe, we should encourage it more


    Even still, the study reached an encouraging conclusion: While they may not feel like exercise, the daily activities that help you get moving are beneficial to your well-being.9

    Here are just a few examples:

    Showering and bathing

    Doing dishes

    Folding laundry

    Sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming

    Tidying up living spaces

    Making beds

    Yard work and gardening

     Considering Social Determinants of Health Could Help Prevent Fatal Heart Attacks

    According to Nguyen, “our hearts, and the rest of our cardiovascular system, respond to movement regardless of the source of the movement—whether it’s walking for exercise or during daily life movement.”

    If vigorous workouts don’t fit your health needs or lifestyle, that’s OK. Maybe you can “take heart” that research is showing that your daily routines are benefiting your body and mind.

    “Any amount of movement is better than none,” Nguyen said. “And it is never too late to start accumulating more movement.”

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