Some of the strategies used to prevent heart problems, like eating a
healthy diet and getting regular exercise, might also help prevent
disability later on, the study team writes in Circulation:
Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
High body mass index (weight in relation to height), cigarette
smoking and high blood pressure are important risk factors at
younger ages "that can associate with a higher chance to have
disability later in life,” lead author Dr. Thanh-Huyen Vu of the
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago told
Vu and her colleagues analyzed data on 6,014 participants in a
Chicago Heart Association Study. The researchers assessed whether
people were at low risk for heart problems at the start of the study
between 1967 and 1973, when they were an average of 43 years old.
Participants were considered to be low-risk if they had normal blood
pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg without medication, healthy
cholesterol levels, a low or normal body BMI, no diabetes and they
did not smoke.
At a follow-up in 2003, the participants reported on their ability
to complete daily living tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, using
the bathroom and getting in and out of bed or a chair.
The researchers also looked at so-called instrumental daily living
tasks like shopping, laundry, making food, managing medication and
using the phone.
Participants were an average of 77 years old at the follow-up and 93
percent reported having at least one chronic disease.
When they were in their 40s, 6 percent of the study group were in
the low risk category and 28 percent had two or more heart risk
factors, with high blood pressure as the most common.
Thirty-two years later, 7 percent of people reported limitations in
daily activities and 11 percent reported issues with more advanced
The most common instrumental daily living issue was having trouble
preparing meals, reported by 11 percent of participants.
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The most common overall daily living issue was taking a bath or
shower, with around 6 percent needing help with this activity.
People at low risk for heart problems when they were younger had the
lowest levels of disability in old age. And the more risk factors
people had in middle age, the more likely they were to experience
disability later in life.
Those with the low-risk profile at the beginning of the study were
also less likely to report chronic disease, heart disease or
diabetes later on. They were also less likely to experience
arthritis, sciatica or hip fractures.
Starting and maintaining aggressive exercise programs in middle age
can delay age-related disabilities by 16 years, said Dr. James
Fries, a professor of medicine at Stanford University School of
Medicine in Palo Alto, California.
“Moderate exercise, normal body mass, and not smoking can delay what
we call aging by 10 years,” added Fries, who was not involved in the
Fries noted that when we think about aging, it is important to
consider not just how many diseases people have, but how well people
function in daily life.
Rather than trying to “cure” aging, we should focus on slowing the
process by keeping up a healthy lifestyle, he said by email.
SOURCE: bit.ly/29sdGjE Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and
Outcomes, online July 5, 2016.
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