A University College London (UCL) study has discovered that a moderate increase in exercise when you retire can make big improvements to your heart health.

In the study funded by the British Heart Foundation, over 4,000 people in the transition to retirement were quizzed on their exercise routines and had their levels of inflammation – which can lead to ‘furring’ of the arteries and heart disease in later life – measured to gauge their heart health.

exercise cuts heart disease risk

Gentle exercise in later years reduce risk of heart disease

UCL researchers found inflammation was lower in people who embrace an active lifestyle once they retire, than people who carry on being couch potatoes.

In a statement, the BHF said: "This is great news for retirees who often indulge in gardening, countryside walks and gentle sports once they are no longer chained to their desks. In the study a remarkable 83% of people around retirement age managed the recommended 2.5 hours a week of moderate physical activity."

A quarter of elderly Brits have undiagnosed heart problems. Could you be having a heart attack?...

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  • Heart Attack Symptoms You're Likely To Ignore

  • Burning Pain In Abdomen

    "A dull ache or burning sensation in the epigastrum (upper part of the abdomen). Not all pain typically occurs in the centre of the chest," explains Dr Sanjay Sharma. "The blockage in the heart could cause symptoms similar to indigestion (like fullness, bloating and problems swallowing). If these symptoms longer than two days, seek medical advice."

  • Aching Neck And Jaw

    "Severe pain or pressure sensation around the jaw and neck only could be a sign," says Dr Sanjay Sharma. "If it starts off as a mild discomfort but gradually worsens, seek medical advice immediately."

  • Upper Back Pain

    "Pain in the centre of the upper back is often mistaken for muscular pain, but could be a 'silent heart attack' symptom," says Dr. Sanjay Sharma. "If in doubt, speak to a medical professional as soon as possible."

  • Breathlessness

    "Being suddenly short of breath, without any chest pain could be a sign of a herat attack - although it's more likely to occur in elderly people or diabetics. The chest pain could be due to the lack of oxygen to the heart muscle," says Dr Sanjay Sharma. "The breathlessness is often due to the fact that the heart is no longer pumping properly causing the lungs to fill up with fluid."

  • Dizziness And Sweating

    Dizziness and sweating is a common sign," says Dr Sanjay Sharma. "The sweating is a normal reaction to severe pain and the loss of consciousness may be due to a drop in blood pressure the heart going into a very slow, or very fast electrical rhythm, due to the effects of lack of oxygen."

  • 'Pulled Muscle'

    "If chest pain spreads to your left or right arm, that could be another sign you're having a heart attack. We've heard from heart attack survivors who thought they'd pulled a muscle and waited until the following day before getting themselves to hospital," adds Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse from the British Heart Foundation.

In The Journal of Physiology, Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, argues that a lack of exercise should be treated as a medical condition.

As a sedentary lifestyle is a common cause of obesity, and excessive body weight and fat in turn are considered catalysts for diabetes, high blood pressure, joint damage and other serious health problems, Joyner suggests it's necessary to begin prescribing exercise to patients.

Atkins Diet Linked To Heart Disease

In a statement, he says: "I would argue that physical inactivity is the root cause of many of the common problems that we have.

"If we were to medicalise it, we could then develop a way, just like we've done for addiction, cigarettes and other things, to give people treatments, and lifelong treatments, that focus on behavioral modifications and physical activity.

"Then we can take public health measures, like we did for smoking, drunken driving and other things, to limit physical inactivity and promote physical activity."

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  • Foods That Ward Off Heart Disease

    Eat yourself to a healthy heart with these cardiovascular-friendly foods.

  • Oats

    Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre that helps reduce cholesterol levels, especially LDL (bad cholesterol), which damage the heart.

  • Green Leafy Vegetables

    Green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, pak choy, radish leaves, lettuce are known to reduce the risk of heart disease as they are rich sources of folic acid, magnesium, calcium and potassium - the essential minerals for keeping the heart functioning properly. Studies have shown that one daily serving of green leafy vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease by 11%.

  • Tofu

    Soy is a healthy protein alternative to red meat, as it has a low saturated fat content, no cholesterol and even increases your HDL 'good' cholesterol, which is good news for your heart.

  • Tomato

    Regular consumption of tomatoes is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, as they contain a rich source of vitamin K, which help prevent hemorrhages.

  • Wholegrains

    Wholegrains contain high levels of vitamin E, iron, magnesium and a host of anti-oxidants, which are all beneficial to the heart as they help reduce blood pressure.

  • Apples

    Apples contain guercetin, a photochemical containing anti-inflammatory properties, vital for keeping blood clots at bay, which can lead to heart attacks.

  • Almonds

    Almonds, when eaten in moderation, are known to lower cholesterol levels as they contain monosaturate fats (the 'good' fats), as well as vitamin B17, vitamin E and minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc.

  • Red Wine

    Red wine (when drank in moderation) can be good for the heart as it contains a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, which helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces "bad" cholesterol and prevents blood clots.