Common hobbies may help seniors reduce risk of stroke, heart attack

Finding a passion and purpose during retirement is an important part of senior living, and a new study suggests that common hobbies may offer older adults numerous health benefits. Researchers from Sweden found that seniors who participated in activities such as gardening and other do-it-yourself projects around the house experienced a significantly lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to peers who were not as active, according to findings published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A new path toward healthy aging
The study was conducted over the course of more than 12 years and focused on nearly 4,000 individuals who were all 60 at the beginning of the trail. Researchers began by administering a routine health check to the participants which included finding out about their diets, whether they smoked and how physically active they were. In addition, the researchers asked the subjects how regularly they participated in a wide variety of activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects and picking fruit. Finally, researchers looked at the participants' heart health - blood sugar levels, blood fats and blood clotting. Researchers found those who were the most active had about a 27 percent lower risk of heart attack and stroke and a 30 percent reduced risk of death from all factors. 

"Our findings are particularly important for older adults, because individuals in this age group tend, compared to other age groups, to spend a relatively greater proportion of their active day performing [routine activities] as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels," the authors concluded.

Renewed purpose
In addition to encouraging seniors to stay physically active, having a hobby such as gardening can provide seniors with a sense of purpose that can also have significant health benefits during retirement. A 2013 study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found just how substantial an impact a sense of purpose can have on seniors' well-being. The research, which was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study found that seniors who rated their purpose in life especially high had a significantly reduce risk of stroke during the four-year follow up period. The results were true even when adjusted for certain behavioral, biological and social factors.