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Study: Why people over the age of 65 must stay active

Researchers analyzed data from 5,570 adults, aged 75 on average.

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Active senior couple standing with bicycles in park, cheek to cheek, smiling, portrait (tilt)
Stay active: Those in the study with low physical function scores were 47 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular disease event.
(Juice Flair via Shutterstock)

By Lilli Humphrey via SWNS

Inactivity after the age of 65 increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes according to new research from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

The study looked at walking speed, leg strength and balance to measure physical performance.

Known as the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), it measures the ability to perform both basic and instrumental activities of daily living.

The senior author of the study is Dr. Kunihiro Matsushita, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

He said: "High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify non-traditional predictors for older adults.

"Physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease”

Happy old woman undergoing healthy workout
(True Touch Lifestyle via Shutterstock)

The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study enrolled 15,792 participants aged 45-64 years from 1987-1989, to investigate the causes for plaque and fat build-up in the arteries, known as atherosclerotic disease.

SPPB measured physical function to produce a score according to walking speed, speed of rising from a chair (without using your hands) and standing balance.

Analyzing data from 5,570 adults, aged 75 on average, researchers characterized them into three groups based on their test scores: low, intermediate and high.

After examining the association of SPPB scores with future heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, adjusting for major cardiovascular disease risk factors, the study found that 13per cent had low, 30per cent had intermediate and 57 percent had high physical function scores.

During the eight years of the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, 386 participants were diagnosed with a heart attack, 251 had a stroke, and there were 529 heart failure cases.

Those with low physical function scores were 47 percent more likely to experience at least one cardiovascular disease event.

The physical function score improved the risk prediction of cardiovascular disease outcomes beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

Xiao Hu, lead author, and Research Data Coordinator said: “Our findings highlight the value of assessing the physical function level of older adults in clinical practice.

“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."

Falls in older adults are associated with high injury rates, high medical care costs and significant impact on quality of life.

The study only included white and black adults, not including people from other racial or ethnic groups.

Additional research is required to confirm the findings in people from more diverse racial and ethnic groups and people with less physical function.

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