More research shows how important physical activity is in the fight against cardiovascular disease. According to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people older than 65 who have reduced physical function may have a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
Traditional cardiovascular disease risk faction, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes, have been closely linked to cardiovascular disease in middle-aged people. Still, they may not be predictive in older adults. This new study wanted to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults.
The study included participants from the Asclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, an ongoing community-based cohort that involved 15,792 participants, ages 45-64 years, from 1987-1989. Beginning in 2012, participants had yearly and semi-yearly check-ins, including phone calls and in-person clinic exams.
This study was aimed at examining physical function, which is different from physical fitness. Researchers used the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) test, which measures performance such as walking speed, leg strength, and balance. The SPPB scores categorized participants’ physical activity into three groups: low, intermediate, and high.
Researchers found that compared to adults with high physical function scores, those with low physical function scores were 47% more likely to experience at least one cardiovascular event later in life. Those with intermediate physical function scores had a 25% higher risk of having at least one cardiovascular disease event as they got older.
These associations between physical function and cardiovascular disease remained even after controlling for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
“Our findings highlight the value of assessing the physical function level of older adults in clinical practice,” said lead author Xiao Hu, M.H.S. “In addition to heart health, older adults are at higher risk for falls and disability. The assessment of physical function may also inform the risk of these concerning conditions in older adults.”
As more research becomes available, it is easy to see that focusing on heart health throughout life is vital for living a long healthy life.
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