Should Seniors Who Have Heart Disease Do Stretching Exercises?

Stretching exercises for those with heart disease

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TBE reader Margery Kawaller wanted to know after reading “A First for Women’s Health.” The 86-year-old Ms. Kawaller wrote that, “I do thirty minutes each morning and find I am more flexible, have better posture, and am stronger in all things.  My blood pressure is slightly elevated … ”  She became concerned after reading a caution about stretching for seniors in an AARP publication.

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The answer comes from Gordon Blackburn, PhD., director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, who says: “Stretching should be part of every senior’s total activity plan.  Regular, gentle stretching programs are widely recommended for seniors by several health care societies.  A review of AARP articles also shows support for the benefits of stretching to aid flexibility, balance, and performance of daily activities like bathing, dressing, changing the bed, and getting in or out of cars.

I would advise against too-aggressive stretching, or fast-paced, jerky stretching.  Anything that causes pain in the joint or muscle should be avoided. Too much pushing or pulling of the muscles might injure or tear muscles or aggravate orthopedic conditions.  Remember to breathe normally when you stretch.  Don’t strain, because that can increase your blood pressure levels.

Some stretches may not be right for certain people because of specific medical conditions they may have.  If you have a question about specific stretches, discuss them with your physician.”

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