How Exercise Impacts Aging of the Heart

Exercise takes first place on the list of ways to reduce risk for heart disease, and it does so in various ways. Exercise factors into weight management and reducing high blood pressure, both of which lower risk for heart disease. Studies have also found there are ways in which exercise combats the aging of the heart. 

Age is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, as it can cause structural changes and the buildup of plaque in the heart. The left ventricle can begin to stiffen while the heart enlarges slightly, which can lay a foundation for heart disease and heart failure later in life. 

The good news is that the heart is a muscle, and like any muscle, it responds to exercise. In recent years, research studies have shown that long-term, consistent exercise can slow the effects of aging on the heart. 

What kind of exercise should I do?

Research found that what matters is getting your blood flowing and your heart pumping, not the specific exercise you choose. Cardiovascular exercise like running, power walking, biking, or an aerobics class is best for reaching the goal of working out the heart. Regular exercise is also key to maintaining heart health and elasticity. Breaking a sweat and breathing hard four to five times per week is ideal for the heart.

Is it too late to start?

It’s never too late to start! In the studies looking at whether it is possible to reverse some of the effects of aging on the heart, after two years of following new exercises, tests showed participants to be healthier with increased oxygen levels and less stiffness in the heart muscle. Even if you have been sedentary over the past several years or for much of your life, introducing an exercise regime can improve your heart health. It is a good idea to check with your doctor before drastically increasing your amount of exercise, particularly if you haven’t been active lately.

In addition to the benefits of exercise for your aging heart, you will reap the rewards of both improved physical and mental fitness. Sticking to an exercise regime is easier when you enjoy it, so consider some of your favorite activities and see if there are ways to incorporate them into your exercise habits.

If you have questions about the role exercise plays in your heart health or want to discuss creating an exercise plan with your doctor, reach out to us for an appointment at Oklahoma Heart Hospital.