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Care Of The Heart In The Middle Aged

( Originally Published 1921 )

Self recognition of middle age is a rare occurrence. At exactly what year this happens it is hard to say. According to the threescore years and ten tradition, thirty-five ought to be middle age. We usually think of middle age as being somewhere between forty and sixty. Fifty perhaps would be a good point to take for our purpose.

The heart of a man of fifty years of age is unlike the child's heart. It is capable of being seriously damaged by its own contractions. The resistance in the circulation under the strain of violent exertion is so great that the heart can be unduly stretched or even its structure torn and damaged. For that reason, the primary principle in the care of the heart in middle-age is to avoid sudden and violent exertion. Feats of heavy lifting, tests of speed in running or competition involving endurance, should be given up. There need not of necessity be any limit to the amount of exertion, provided it is of the right kind, and all games of skill, such as tennis, fencing, and golf, are allowed.

At this time of life, exercise becomes necessary for the man who wishes to live and be well,-and consideration should be given to the limitation of the intake of food to the actual needs of the body. Vacations become of much more importance than they were. Continuous sources of anxiety or worry or great emotional strains are apt to leave their mark on the heart with people who have passed fifty. Young people think they break their hearts; older people really do.

The care of the heart of a middle aged person, when it has been injured, is a problem demanding the careful consideration of all circumstances involved. A young person can rest in bed for a year and still have a great deal ahead of him, but to put a person of fifty to bed for a year would be foolish indeed because the structures of the heart are so established in their condition that definite favorable changes could not be expected by rest for this length of time. So the rest period of older patients that can be used to advantage becomes much shorter. In the same way the reconstruction of older people's hearts by graduated exercises must be much more gradual and cover a longer period of time, and the chemistry of the older heart is so much more sluggish that much stricter attention to diet is necessary.

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