Older adults: 6000 steps daily lowers the risk of heart disease

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A recent study published in the Circulation journal analyzed the possible association of daily steps with cardiovascular disease and found that for older adults, walking between 6000 to 9000 steps a day could be linked to being 40 to 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those who walk 2000 steps a day.

“For older adults, taking more daily steps was associated with a progressively decreased risk of CVD. Monitoring and promoting steps per day is a simple metric for clinician–patient communication and population health to reduce the risk of CVD.” Concludes the study, based on a meta-analysis of eight studies using 20152  individuals located in 43 countries, with an average age of 63.2 years, and 52% being women.

Walking towards a better health

There’s a general consensus that there are health benefits tied to walking, for more than just cardiovascular health and for both older and younger adults.

There’s a common belief that 10000 steps a day is a recommended goal to remain healthy but that number actually comes from a marketing campaign. According to Dr. Amanda Paluch, a physical activity epidemiologist and kinesiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, what research indicates is that “the message is to move more” as it will provide incremental benefits for cardiovascular health, suggesting how for every 1000 steps added, there is a gradual reduction in CVD risk.

For younger adults, the Circulation study found no association between increasing steps and lowering cardiovascular disease risk. Still, another study published in the Lancet analyzed the links between daily steps and all causes of mortality and found similar results, suggesting the same message about moving more can apply. According to Dr. Paluch

“For younger adults, being physically active benefits many of the precursors of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions are more likely to develop in younger adults, and are important for early prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Keeping count of your steps

The common belief in the 10000 steps goal might make reaching that target seem like a daunting task, but Dr. Paluch recommends

“Don’t get caught up in 10,000 or any other number. It is not an all-or-nothing situation for cardiovascular health benefits. Just getting incremental increases in your steps could be meaningful in your cardiovascular health.”

In any case, step tracker devices or pedometers are still valuable tools to measure the progress suggested by the studies and reach sensible health goals. Cardiologist Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, of Non-Invasive Cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA sees their benefit.

“I do encourage older adults to obtain a step-tracker device,” said Dr. Ni, “since these are now extremely easy to obtain for minimal to no cost. Pedometers and step meters are often provided by health insurance companies and Medicare Advantage plans to encourage exercise.”

Dr. Ni also added that many smartphones even include built-in step trackers, but even without them, simpler ways of measurement like counting the distance or duration of the walk might be enough to determine progress and get inspired to do more without risking getting obsessed with reaching a fixed number of steps.

Final Thoughts

Fitness will always be a fundamental part of our well-being, and it should not be taken for granted, especially as you grow older. It can be concluded that walking is a great way to remain healthy, and if you have the right tools, you can track your progress and make changes in your lifestyle accordingly.

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