Q. I've always enjoyed exercise, but I recently have experienced heart failure. Is there any evidence that shows I could still benefit from continuing to exercise even at age 78? I live alone so I worry about the risks.
A: This is a subject you will need to discuss first and foremost with your doctor. But here's an interesting piece of news:
Aerobic exercise training appears safe for patients with heart failure and was associated with a modest reduction in the risk of death and hospitalization, with some improvement in quality of life, according to two articles in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Heart failure is a major and increasingly common cardiovascular syndrome, and is the end result of many cardiovascular disorders. Guidelines recommend that exercise training be considered for medically stable outpatients with heart failure, but there have remained concerns regarding safety and uncertainty about clinical outcomes.
Dr. Christopher M. O'Connor, of Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C., and colleagues examined whether aerobic-type exercise training reduces all-cause death or all-cause hospitalization in patients with medically stable chronic heart failure due to systolic dysfunction (impaired contraction of the heart).
There were 2,331 patients in the study with a median age of 59. They were randomly assigned to either usual care plus aerobic exercise or usual care alone.
Patients with heart failure who participated in aerobic exercise training had modest improvements in self-reported health status compared with those patients who did not have exercise training, according to the research.
"The results demonstrate that participation in an exercise training program provides a modest but statistically significant improvement in patient-reported health status compared with usual care," the authors concluded.
Your doctor can let you know whether exercise is safe for you. In the meantime, why not connect with others in a way that can help you feel safer and more secure in your own home.
One way to do that is by engaging the services of a caregiver companion. Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGivers who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and equipped to help keep seniors independent for as long as possible.
Q. My 80-year-old father still smokes a lot and says that he's so old, it doesn't matter whether or not he quits. Is that true?
A: Please let your dad know about research that was presented at a recent American Geriatric Society meeting, which reveals that changing bad habits such as smoking can positively impact a senior's health even later in life.
The study followed 2,000 seniors who were current and past smokers and those who had never smoked. The three groups were compared after five years to see if there was a link between smoking and the speed at which participants walked. It was discovered that smokers showed a significantly slower pace in their gait than those who had previously smoked.
Smoking and excessive alcohol intake is proven to have negative health effects on a person at any age, but seniors who smoke and drink regularly increase their chances of more advanced medical problems, according to Dr. Alison Moore, an associate professor, Division of Geriatrics, UCLA School of Medicine.
So even at an older age, making health improvements is beneficial.
Why not check in your dad's community about the smoking cessation programs that are available. If he is on Medicare and is diagnosed with a smoking-related disease, including heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), multiple cancers, lung disease, weak bones, blood clots and cataracts, he could get coverage for smoking and tobacco use cessation counseling.
Medicare will cover up to eight face-to-face visits during a 12-month period. These visits must be ordered by your father's doctor and provided by a qualified doctor or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. Your father would pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount after he meets the yearly Part B deductible.
Perhaps your dad could benefit from more activity.
Why not encourage him to renew interest in some of his favorite activities? After he quits smoking, your father could consider volunteering or a part-time career caring for other seniors.
Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGivers to go into the homes and care communities of older adults to help with meal preparation and light housekeeping.
Hopefully it will encourage your father to know that it is possible to change bad habits, even at age 80.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, call 522-6533 or log on to www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Lycoming, Clinton, Northumberland, and Montour counties.