Cleaning the way to a spic-n-span heart

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The secret to a healthier heart may be hidden in the dusty confines of your vacuum cleaner.

Or in your bucket of mop water, or your toilet scrub brush.

A recent study from the University of Indiana found that the accumulation of housework and gardening may help lower blood pressure in people with with hypertension (high blood pressure) or pre-hypertension.

Regardless of intensity, four hours of daily "lifestyle physical activity" lowered the participants' blood pressure by a category, according to the report, which was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

"It all points to the fact that any kind of physical activity is better than none," said Eileen Sievers, a registered nurse and certified exercise specialist in the wellness department of Saint Francis Medical Center's Fitness Plus. "This shows you can make modest improvement, if only temporary, even by doing moderate activity."

Sievers said cleaning house is just one example of daily activity that can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

"The biggest thing is we as a society have come to depend of sedentary 'activities.' So many of the things we do are built around sitting -- TV, computers, going to the movies," Sievers said.

As an alternative, Sievers suggests taking family walks or going bowling.

"There are so many things we can do to add fun to our lives, but we're neglecting them because we're in a mind-set of technology," she said.

Blood pressure, along with the diabetes, is closely tied to obesity. As weight management has become a problem for more people over the years, Dr. David Law at Cardiovascular Consultants in Cape Girardeau has seen a coinciding increase in high blood pressure.

"The few people who do manage to drop those pounds usually get off the blood-pressure medicine and diabetes medicine," said Law.

Law agreed that the tie between housework and lower blood pressure probably has more to do with physical activity in general.

"It's well known that exercise helps control and decrease blood pressure," said Law. "The mode of exercise really isn't that important. Even dropping five pounds will cut blood pressure."

Participants in the University of Indiana study who had high blood pressure typically saw their blood pressure drop to pre-hypertension levels for up to eight hours after the housework.

Researcher Jauma Padilla said the findings of the study indicate physical activity is an essential component in management of blood pressure.

The next step in the research, said Padilla, is to discover whether such activity can have a long-lasting impact on blood pressure.

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