Tribune Print Share Text

Heart smart

House hunting? New study shows where you live may affect your health

Created date

April 12th, 2016
The all-season swimming pool at Charlestown

An all-season swimming pool just steps from your front door at Charlestown is one reason why it’s easy to lead a healthy lifestyle.

When it comes to searching for a new home, we’ve all heard the mantra: location, location, location. Now, a new study from the American Heart Association (AHA) confirms that where you choose to live may be more important than you think. 

Research presented at AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2015 shows moving to a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood may help lower your blood pressure. 

The study compared blood pressure data of 1,057 pairs of adults who moved from a low walkability neighborhood to either a high walkability or another low walkability neighborhood in Ontario, Canada, over a ten-year period. They found people who moved to a walking-friendly neighborhood had a 54% lower risk of high blood pressure than people who left one walking-unfriendly neighborhood for another.

Healthy by design

Regular exercise like walking is one of the key components to longevity and staying healthy as you age. Healthy living is a hallmark of Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md. 

Charlestown is uniquely designed to offer retirees an active lifestyle year round. The community’s buildings connect by climate-controlled indoor walkways, so residents can walk to and from their apartment homes to dinner, meetings, and events and activities in the clubhouses. 

And in nice weather, Charlestown offers plenty of outdoor opportunities for exercise, including sidewalks, walking trails, a lake, and spacious grassy areas.

The community features an on-site fitness center with weight training and cardio equipment. And fitness specialists assess the needs and skill level of those who begin exercise at the fitness center and can recommend a personalized exercise program. 

“We have top-of-the-line equipment designed specifically for this age bracket,” says Charlestown Wellness Manager Teresa Reymann-Curran. “We have SCIFIT steppers, cardio bikes, ellipticals, New Life fitness treadmills, and HUR strength-training equipment. We also have three cardio machines that have TVs attached to them as well as two 50-inch flat screen TVs hanging from the ceiling with wireless audio so you can listen through ear buds while you’re exercising.”  

A variety of regular fitness classes, including strength training, low-impact aerobics, and stretching and balance, are also held in the group fitness studio. And a 6,000-square-foot aquatics center with a 75- by 30-foot swimming pool offers a full schedule of aerobic and strength-training classes. 

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Community members also participate in numerous athletic clubs, including a softball team, bocce club, and Wii bowling. 

What’s on your plate?

Eating right is an important part of maintaining good health. Charlestown restaurants offer residents easy ways to choose healthful foods through a program called Healthier Choice, which follows the USDA dietary guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association’s recommendations with regard to the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar that people should have in their diets.

Smart Sweet, an alternative dessert program for people who want to avoid fat and sugar but still enjoy dessert after a meal, is also available.

Community members enjoy full access to the nutritional information of the meals served in each of the six on-site restaurants. As a result, they are able to choose the entrees, sides, and desserts that best meet their unique dietary needs. All of the information is located on MyNutrition, an easy-to-use website launched to empower residents to make informed food choices.

The website features the same nutrition information you would find on grocery items, including the ingredients, calories, and fat content. You can also search for foods according to a variety of different specialty options, for example, allergies such as milk, wheat, shellfish or nuts, as well as diabetic, heart-smart, vegetarian, and gluten-free selections.

But even if after exercising and eating well you still find yourself feeling a bit under the weather, Charlestown has its own on-site medical center staffed by five full-time physicians with same-day or next-day appointments, a host of visiting specialists, as well as continuing care health services like on-site rehabilitation. 

“The old saying holds true: ‘Use it or lose it,’” says Reymann-Curran. “Regular exercise is the best way to ensure that we remain strong and healthy enough to lead and enjoy vibrant active lives later in life. It’s never too late to start exercising. Even if you currently lead an inactive lifestyle, you can still reap the many benefits of being physically active by starting now.”