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Heart smart

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

Created date

April 13th, 2016

An all-season swimming pool just steps from your front door at Oak Crest 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) is confirming 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 Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. 

Oak Crest 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, Oak Crest 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 to exercise at the fitness center and can recommend a personalized exercise program. 

“We design a program tailored to your individual needs and goals,” says Oak Crest Fitness Specialist Laura Selvage. “You will have access to a wide range of professional equipment, including treadmills, recumbent bikes, elliptical machines, Nu-step machines, a Krankcycle, as well as dumbbells, barbells, Swiss balls, a BOSU ball, resistance bands, and Thera-Bands.” 

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 an aquatics center with an indoor 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, tennis and bocce clubs, and Wii bowling. 

What’s on your plate?

Eating right is an important part of maintaining good health. Oak Crest 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, Oak Crest 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. 

“Exercise at any age is not only important, it should be a priority,” says Selvage. “Functional training is the key to maintaining your independence as you age. Getting older does bring with it certain limitations, but working out in your 30s is not much different from your 70s.  The object is to keep moving.”