By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
A brisk walk on most days can help extend longevity for elderly patients with common age-related high blood pressure, according to a 2014 study by U.S. Veterans Affairs researchers. Analyzing a database base of more than two thousand hypertensive veterans over the age of 70, the researchers found that even a low level of fitness, the result of brisk daily walking for 20 to 40 minutes, was enough to reduce the typically harmful effects that accompany high blood pressure among the elderly.
During an average of about nine years of follow-up, the researchers analyzed the incidence of deaths related to different levels of fitness. Compared to those at the bottom level (very low-fit), those who were considered low fit had a reduced mortality risk of 18 percent; moderately fit, 36 percent; and those testing as high fit, 48 percent.
My Viewpoint: I’ve been preaching the benefits of brisk walking to my older patients for years. It requires no instruction and the cost is minimal; maybe buying a new pair of walking shoes. There’s a low risk of injury and it’s easily implemented.
What this Means to You: Most people over the age of 65 have high blood pressure and as a result are more likely to experience organ damage or cardiovascular disease. It is known that higher exercise capacity is associated with lower mortality risk in hypertensive middle-aged individuals. This was the first time I have seen research about the effect of exercise capacity on mortality in older hypertensives. Since aging, even among healthy individuals, is associated with declines in muscle mass, strength, and aerobic capacity, even doing a bit of walking can be highly beneficial across the board.
Recommendation: If you are a senior, start moving, even if you can’t do more than five or ten minutes in the beginning. This book will tell you how easy it is to get off your duff and start feeling the benefits. Walk your dog. Walk your spouse. Walk with companions. But do it as much as you can. I don’t care how old you are. You need physical activity!