New Links on MedlinePlus
MedlinePlus sent this bulletin at 06/05/2013 01:05 PM EDT
06/04/2013 02:35 PM EDT
06/04/2013 02:35 PM EDT
Source: American Heart Association
Related MedlinePlus Page: Heart Diseases--Prevention
Walk, Don't Run, Your Way to a Healthy Heart
OK, so you’re not much into running? Or maybe you’ve had an injury and can’t run. Then just walk — every step you take is part of your journey to good heart health.
In fact, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running, according to a new study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkley, Calif. All three conditions are risk factors for heart disease and stroke — and you can do something about them.
Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. They found that the same energy used for moderate- intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease over the study’s six years. Read more about the study highlights.
The more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.
“The findings don’t surprise me at all,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “The findings are consistent with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults that we need 30 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to derive benefits.”
On Your Mark, Get Set … Walk!
Maybe you’ve been sedentary for a while. No problem.
“Just get started,” Pate said, “even if it’s a few additional minutes per day.”
It’s not all or nothing; it’s step by step. So set a reachable goal just for today. Then you can work toward your overall goal of 30 minutes a day by increasing your time as you get in better shape.
“Just find an approach that you find enjoyable,” said Pate, who is also a volunteer for the American Heart Association. “It may be the setting, doing it with someone or walking alone because you appreciate the solitude.”
And if you’re busy — like most of us — you can split up your walks into 10-15 minutes each. You can also work in walking when you:
- Take the dog out for a stroll through the neighborhood.
- Spend quality time with the family at the park.
- Park farther from your workplace and use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Window shop at the mall.
- There’s lots of ways to engage in it,” Pate said.
It’s So Easy — and It Works
All you have to do is lace up with a good pair of sneakers — and walk. It’s that easy. It’s also safe, the least expensive and has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.
“It’s not a skill-dependent form of activity,” Pate said. “It’s the most accessible form of physical activity. You can do it almost anywhere. And it doesn’t require a lot of equipment.”
Before you know it, brisk walking can become a part of your daily routine. And you’ll reap plenty of benefits:
- For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours.
- Walking for as few as 30 minutes a day improves your heart health.
“Clearly, walking is an important form of physical activity,” Pate said.
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Meditation and Heart Disease, Stroke
Lower stress, cardiovascular disease risk by meditating.
Taking a few minutes to relax each day could help you lower your risks of cardiovascular disease.
Meditation is a practice — often using deep breathing, quiet contemplation or sustained focus on something benign, such as a color, phrase or sound — that helps you let go of stress and feel peaceful and maintain a relaxed state of mind.
“Think of it as a 20- or 30-minute vacation from the stress in your life,” said Richard A. Stein, professor of medicine and director of the exercise and nutrition program at New York University’s Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
Stress is your body’s natural alarm system. It releases a hormone called adrenaline that causes your breathing to quicken, and your heart rate and blood pressure to rise.
But that “fight or flight” response can take a toll on your body if it’s sustained over a long time.“When we were cavemen, that adrenaline helped us be ready if a tiger was going to attack,” Dr. Stein said. “Today, all the tigers are in our heads.”
For people with cardiovascular disease, meditation provides a technique for reducing stress and focusing on things they can do to be healthier, Dr. Stein said. “Meditation is a way of allowing you to come to balance in your life,” Dr. Stein said. “It can also help you to sleep better, which is a very important restorative part of physical health.”
Recent studies have offered promising results about the impact of meditation in reducing blood pressure. A 2012 study showed African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die compared with African-Americans who attended a health education class over more than five years.
Find the Method That Works for You
There are countless types of meditation, so it’s important to find an approach that you feel comfortable with, Dr. Stein said.
“Find what works for you,” Dr. Stein said. “Maybe it’s just listening to your favorite music while you walk at a moderate pace.”
Dr. Stein encourages his patients to find local classes on meditation to get started, get recommendations from friends or read books on different forms.
Transcendental meditation is a technique that allows your mind to focus inward, maintaining alertness to other thoughts or sensations without allowing them to interfere. It’s done seated with your eyes closed for 20 minutes, twice a day.
Mindful mediation may use sound or touch, for example the ringing of a bell, chanting, beads or a simple object to help the mind to focus. Relaxation response meditation uses a single word to focus on.
Not all mediation is done sitting down with your legs crossed like many people believe. For example, tai chi, also called “moving meditation,” incorporates gentle movements that require deep concentration and balance. Yoga is an ancient practice of stretching and breathing used to prepare the body for long periods of meditation.
Prayer can also be a form of mediation, Dr. Stein said.
While meditation can offer a technique for lowering stress, and your risk for heart disease, Dr. Stein said it can’t replace other important lifestyle changes like eating healthier, losing or managing weight, reducing salt or getting regular physical activity. It’s also not a substitute for any medication your doctor may have prescribed as part of your treatment plan.
“Meditation should be an adjunct to prescribed medications and dietary and exercise programs, not a replacement,” Dr. Stein said.
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