Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's the key to long-term heart health?

Moderation is Jesse Weiskopf's philosophy. Weiskopf, who just celebrated his 97th birthday, never really worked out hard when he was younger.

"It's not that I worked out, but I always did something. I'm an introverted person and this is my outlet," Weiskopf said. These days, though, he goes to the gym a couple times a week.

"I don't lift hundreds of pounds. I do a little of everything. I'm just trying to be sensible and conservative."

He applies that to his diet too. "I'm not a food nut. I eat everything that's good," said Weiskopf, who tries to avoid sugar, fat and salt. "I don't eat sugar or salt if I can help it."

But moderate exercise, not a strenuous workout session, may be the best medicine, no matter what the age group. The stress of a high-intensity workout, said Dr. Henry Cusnir, interventional cardiologist at University Hospital and Medical Center in Tamarac, "raises blood pressure to levels that are not healthy" and impose stress on the aorta and heart. "It's much more harmful than beneficial," Cusnir said.

Dr. Errol Campbell, MD of internal medicine at University Hospital, said a lower intensity exercise regimen for a longer period of time is better, as opposed to a more intense exercise program done over a shorter period of time. "What is important is that you are doing some sort of exercise and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle," Campbell said.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2008 Japan tied with San Marino for the highest average life expectancy, 83.

In Japan, nowhere are the benefits of moderation more apparent than in Okinawa, which has more per capita centenarians than anywhere else in the world.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study – conducted by Makoto Suzuki, MD, PhD, Dr. Craig Willcox, PhD and Bradley Willcox MD, MS – found that elderly Okinawa residents had an 80 percent lower risk for coronary disease compared to citizens in Western nations.

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