How to Exercise for Cardiac Health as a Senior Female

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Today’s seniors have a longer life expectancy compared to their predecessors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that most Americans will live nearly 20 years past retirement age. If you are among the senior population, managing your heart health can help you enjoy a better quality of life in your retirement years. Read on to learn how to exercise for cardiac health as a senior female.

Proper exercise and diet are smart ways for senior females to greatly reduce their chance of contracting heart disease. Keeping your body mass index (BMI) below the suggested count reduces your risk of contracting conditions such as cancer, diabetes and cardiac disease.

You can also make smart lifestyle choices that will increase your overall health. This may include healthy behaviors, such as smoking cessation and weight loss, as well as remaining physically active and eating the right foods. Additionally, your care provider team is a great asset for helping you to find the best ways to manage any existing illnesses.

How Do You Rank Among Your Peers?

Over 40 percent of the senior population reports that they are in excellent health. Among this population, physicians have diagnosed over 80 percent of individuals with cardiovascular disease (CVD). More than 42.2 million of those individuals are over or at the age of 60. The distribution of CVD is nearly the same between men and women, with care providers diagnosing 70.2 percent of men and 70.9 percent of senior females, both within the 60-79 age range, with the condition.

At the 80-year mark, the parallel starts to diverge, with physicians diagnosing 83 percent of men and 87.1 percent of women with the illness. As for cardiac events, such as heart attacks and strokes, 3 per 1,000 men have historically experienced their first cardiac event between the ages of 35 and 44 while the female population experiences comparable outcomes approximately ten years later in life. This difference narrows as senior citizens advance in age. As for fatal events, nearly 66 percent occur among senior citizens over the age of 70. The American Heart Association reports that, in 2009, heart disease was the number one cause of fatal events for the senior population.

Angina pectoris, also called stable angina, is another heart condition that affects the older generation. The condition is caused by coronary heart disease and results in chest pain and discomfort. Stable angina occurs when the body doesn’t deliver a sufficient amount of blood to the heart. Most often, this is due to a condition called ischemia, where one or more arteries have narrowed or suffered a blockage. Symptoms of the disease may feel like pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest. You may also experience discomfort in your arm, back, jaw, neck or shoulder.

There Are Various Forms of Heart Disease

Cholesterol buildup causes heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular conditions. The compound hardens on the interior of the vascular system, restricting blood circulation. This depletes the body of oxygen and may lead to dangerous blood clots. If a physician has already diagnosed you with cardiac disease, they’ve most likely suggested lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Diet improvement
  • Increased exercise
  • Medication compliance
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stress reduction

Cholesterol increases the likelihood that blood clots will form. When the cholesterol plaque buildup breaks away from interior artery walls, a blood clot can form and make its way to the heart, leading to an attack. To prevent cholesterol buildup, you should follow your physician’s treatment recommendations.

Not all cholesterol is bad for you. Bad cholesterol is scientifically known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). You can increase your good cholesterol – also called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – and lower bad cholesterol by exercising your heart. By lowering your LDL level, you may reduce bad cholesterol buildup, stop its production or reverse the current LDL accumulation in your arteries and greatly reduce the probability of contracting cardiac disease. You can improve your health even more by eating the right foods and exercising regularly.

Other types of cardiac disease include congestive failure, attacks, valve complications, irregular heartbeat – also called arrhythmia – and strokes. Arterial rips, blood clots and spasms can cause heart attacks. Most often, it’s a blood clot that causes this cardiac event. Typically, a blood clot stops blood flow, depriving the heart of oxygen. Some heart muscle usually dies when this occurs.

Spasms are another event that can prevent the flow of blood to your heart. If you smoke cigarettes, abuse drugs or experience excessive stress, the chances of a heart spasm are heightened. A less-occurring form of heart disease is when a spontaneous rip in the artery leads to a heart attack.

Taking a Stand Against Heart Disease

An article on the Go Red for Women website reports that savvy seniors lead an active lifestyle. Many travel nationally, and some enjoy international excursions. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 150 minutes per week of moderate activity is the optimal amount of exercise for health-conscious senior citizens. This yields the same results as 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. A combination of strength and cardiovascular training will do a great job of keeping your heart healthy and strong.

The AHA recommends that senior females strength train twice per week. Make sure that you vary your routine, exercising your whole body routinely. You can start light with three- to five-pound weights and build up your strength over time, completing exercises such as arm curls, arm rows, squats and other training activities. There’s no recommended time limit for your weight training. However, you should repeat repetitions until you can’t go on without assistance.

Yoga can also improve your health, and no, it doesn’t count toward your 150 minutes of moderate activity. Despite this, researchers have shown that yoga improves the mind, body and spirit of practitioners. The American Heart Association suggests that seniors practice yoga three times a week. The organization states that the activity improves cardiac health by lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Yoga can also improve your muscle tone, lung capacity, flexibility and breathing. Visit the iTrainer Directory to find a yoga expert near you.

Swimming is another healthy, popular and low-impact activity, according to the CDC. Swimmers only feel approximately 10 percent of their body weight while submerged. The lightness reduces the impact on your joints and muscles.

Many seniors enjoy water aerobics classes. Community centers and gyms commonly host this activity. The class may include instructor-led weightlifting while treading water and choreographed group movements.

A 12-Week Commitment to Heart Health

An ongoing commitment to physical activity can help you manage your blood pressure, strengthen your heart and reduce feelings of depression. Physicians recommend exercise for individuals of all ages. You should always consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen. The American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee encourages seniors to commit to an active lifestyle. You can start on the path to a more active lifestyle by committing to exercise for 12 weeks. If you complete this challenge, you’ll develop a healthy lifestyle habit that will benefit you immensely.

By following basic exercise guidelines, you can get the most out of your routine. Many seniors inadvertently slip into a sedentary lifestyle. If this has happened to you, take it easy in the beginning. When starting your 12-week training program, the AHA recommends doing different routines during the first 30 minutes of your day to achieve the best results.


Always stretch after strenuous physical activity. Physicians recommend that seniors stretch only after warming up muscles with exercise. Stretching cold muscles may lead to soreness or injuries. If you skip this important step, your muscles may contract and tense up commensurate with the intensity of your workout. Stretching is also a great way for senior females to remain flexible and reduce the likelihood of falling. Physicians recommend that seniors stretch only after warming up muscles with exercise. If you’re more comfortable learning how to get in shape with professional instruction, visit the iTrainer Directory to find a personal fitness coach that will show how to how to exercise for cardiac health.

Start your stretching routine in the standing position. Bend your left leg slightly and lean to the left as far as you can without falling. Hold this position for three seconds, and then repeat the stretch on your right side. This stretch will loosen the muscles around your core called abductors.

Next, stand up straight with one foot in front of the other, while leaving a comfortable distance between your feet. Make sure you’re balanced and then lean forward at the knee. You should feel a pleasant stretching feeling below the calf of the leg that you’ve placed to the rear. Reverse your feet and repeat the process on the other leg.

Loosen up your upper chest by starting in the sitting position with your feet on the ground. Place your hands gently behind your head and clasp your fingers. As you inhale, flex your elbows to the rear. Release the tension as you inhale, returning your hands to your lap if necessary. Repeat this stretch at least three times, and then rest before starting your calisthenic exercises.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Begin your 12-week journey to fitness by walking around your yard or neighborhood. You can increase your activity as your stamina improves. The most important thing is to do something every day. Doing so will mentally reinforce the habit of daily physical activity. The first 12 weeks are your time to establish healthy habits of consistent physical activity. However, your heart-healthy journey doesn’t end there. You should continue participating in daily physical activities indefinitely.

Start with 10 minutes of daily activity and work up to 30 minutes each day. Once 30 minutes is no longer a challenge, you can add light weights to intensify your workout and improve the effectiveness of your cardiovascular exercise. If it makes you feel safer or more comfortable, find a friend to take the 12-week training program with you. You can also choose to walk around a local mall. Many seniors start walking clubs or support groups and participate in walking excursions together. Local community centers may sponsor walking programs as well. The groups are a great way to make friends and meet new people.

Over time, your physical stamina may improve beyond the scope of walking. At this point, you may want to try running. If you do, consult your physician first. Make sure that you wear proper running shoes for this activity. You should start your jog with a 10-minute walking warmup. In the beginning, run for three- to five minutes at a time, taking rest breaks in between intervals. In time, work your way up to light 20-minute jogging sessions.

Calisthenic Exercises

The American Heart Association also recommends calisthenic activity, or strength training without weights, for seniors at least two days a week. Calisthenic arm, leg and core activities will improve your physical strength. Begin work on your legs by sitting erect in a chair with your feet flat and shoulder-width apart. If you need additional support, hold on to the sides of the chair. Lift a leg off the floor until your knee is straight and hold your position for a few seconds. Lower your leg to the starting position and repeat the exercise with your other leg. Repeat this exercise eight times with both legs.

Arm Exercises

To exercise your arms, sit erect in a chair with your feet flat and your arms by your sides while holding light weights or soup cans. Keep your palms facing inward and your elbow slightly bent, and then slowly raise your arms until they’re parallel to the ground. Hold that position for one second, and then slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Repeat this activity eight times for each arm.

To exercise your triceps, or the area located on the back of your upper arm, start off sitting erect in a chair with your feet flat on the ground while holding a light weight or soup can in your left hand. Keep your left elbow bent and raise it upwards until it’s pointing straight up in the air. Now, use your right hand to support your left arm in that position, and slowly raise your left arm upwards until it’s completely straight. Hold the position for one second, and then slowly lower your arm to the starting position without moving your elbow. Repeat this exercise six to eight times for each arm.

Core Exercises

Your core transfers power from the ground to your entire body. A strong core improves your mobility and your general physical health. Seated knee lifts are an excellent exercise for strengthening your abdomen and core. Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground. Next, simultaneously tense your stomach muscles, and lift your feet off the ground. Hold this position for one second, and then return to the starting position. Work your way up to doing six repetitions at a time during your 12-week training program, and remember not to overexert your stomach muscles by squeezing too hard as you adjust to this exercise.

Heel-to-Toe Walking

Another great calisthenic exercise that will improve your balance is walking heel to toe. Initially, it’s a good idea to walk along a wall to help you maintain your balance. Continue along the wall by placing the heel of your right foot directly in front of the toe of your left foot. Make sure that your right heel contacts your left toe, and then repeat the process with your other foot. Work your way up to at least six heel-to-toe steps. If you’d like to learn how to exercise for cardiac health in a way that will help you stay committed for your first 12 weeks, go to the iTrainer Directory to find a nearby fitness expert.

Increased Risk for Cardiac Disease Among Women

Around 50 percent of women who participated in a recent American Heart Disease poll were aware that cardiac disease is the top cause of fatal events among the female population, but only 13 percent of the group believed that the condition was their greatest health threat. The women expressed that they are more concerned about breast cancer, with some admitting to thinking about the illness daily. Researchers believe that this attitude exists because, unlike cardiac disease, breast cancer affects body image, sexuality and self-esteem. Also, most senior females don’t experience heart attacks until their early 70s, explaining why the threat of cardiac disease is surreal to younger women.

Physical activity and a healthy diet can reduce your risk of acquiring heart disease. Exercise also helps to reduce depression and stress, which contribute to heart disease diagnoses. In addition to exercise and a healthy diet, you can reduce stress with proper rest, relaxation exercises and meditation. Following these tips and adding more healthy habits as time goes on can help you stay below the recommended body mass index and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Visit the iTrainer Directory now to find a personal fitness coach that will show how to how to exercise for cardiac health as a senior female.


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