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senior-walkerRegular exercise is good for the heart, which is why leading experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (5X weekly) to help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. However, many older adults fall short of this goal because of arthritis or other ailments that may limit their movement—but according to a new study even small doses of physical activity can have significant benefits.

Researchers from the University of Florida Institute on Aging recently tracked nearly 1,200 70- and 80-year-olds with limited mobility and discovered that even when the majority of the day was spent sitting, adding a few hours of light movement was associated with notable heart benefits, specifically a reduced risk of heart attack in the following years.

Even if it was just moving around the house doing simple chores or walking slowly, such activity reduced the amount of time that seniors spent sitting down and, in turn, had a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Previous studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle—even more than obesity—can be detrimental to heart health and result in a shorter life expectancy.

The findings, published online this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association, should encourage caregivers to help seniors find ways to stay moving throughout the day. Doctors may be able to recommend low-impact exercises that can be done safely at home, and family members can look into local classes specifically designed for seniors with limited mobility. The bottom line, says lead researcher Thomas Buford, is that it is never too late to benefit from physical activity.

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candy_heartsConcerned about your heart? For years experts have warned us to watch our sodium intake to prevent high blood pressure—a significant risk factor for heart disease—but recent studies show that dietary salt may not necessarily be the bad guy we have been led to believe. Instead, new evidence points to a far more dangerous culprit: sugar.

Not only does it affect healthy blood pressure, but a recent Mayo Clinic report reveals that a diet high in added sugars, particularly fructose, is causing a significant increase in cases of diabetes and pre-diabetes in the United States—and may soon result in a nationwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes.

What many people don’t realize is that heart disease is a major complication of diabetes, and according to the American Diabetes Association having diabetes actually doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke. Excess fructose also contributes to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, and even moderate doses of added sugar over a short period of time can cause significant damage to the heart, say experts.

As you may have guessed already, Americans consume a lot of fructose—most often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup—but reducing all forms of added sugar is really the best line of defense for a healthy heart. Below are 4 important “heart healthy steps” you can take every day:

  1. Check your blood sugar levels regularly.
  2. Eliminate added sugars from your diet.
  3. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates from starchy foods such as bread, pasta, pastries and starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates break down into sugar in the digestive tract, and those sugars are absorbed and contribute to high blood sugar.
  4. Read ingredient and nutritional content labels before purchasing a food product.

As you work to eliminate sugar from your diet, remember to eat plenty of non-starchy veggies, low-sugar fruits, protein (from sources such as tofu, poultry, eggs and fish), healthy fats, nuts and seeds.

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