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Over 60s should increase exercise

Friday November 8th, 2019

People over the age of 60 should do more exercise - not less - to prevent heart disease and stroke, according to the findings of a major study published today.

The research team, who examined more than 1.1 million elderly people in South Korea, found that people who did less moderate or vigorous exercise as they got older had up to a 27% increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems.

This is compared to those who increased their levels of activity, who reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease of up to 11%.

The association held true even for those with disabilities and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes, according to the study, which is published in today’s European Heart Journal.

Researchers, led by Kyuwoong Kim, a PhD student at Seoul National University Graduate School Department of Biomedical Sciences in Seoul, carried out the study in 1,119,925 men and women aged 60 years or older and who underwent two consecutive health checks provided by the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NIHS) from 2009 to 2010 and 2011 to 2012.

The participants were followed up until December 2016 and at each health check, the participants answered questions about their physical activity and lifestyle and if and how it had changed during the two years between the screenings.

The researchers collected data on heart disease and stroke from January 2013 to December 2016 on the participants, whose average age was 67 years and 47% of whom were men.

78% of women in the first screening said they were physically inactive, reducing to 77% in the second. This compared with 67% and 66% consecutively of men who said they were not physically active.

Only 22% of inactive people increased their physical activity by the time of the second health check, and 54% of people who had been exercising five or more times a week at the time of the first screening had become inactive by the time of the second. During the follow-up period a total of 114,856 cases of heart disease or stroke occurred.

The researchers found that people who moved from being continuously inactive at the 2009-2010 health check to being moderately or vigorously active three to four times a week at the 2011-2012 health check had an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular problems.

Those who were moderately or vigorously active one or two times a week at the first check had a 10% reduced risk if they increased their activity to five or more times a week.

However, those who were moderately or vigorously active more than five times a week at the first check, who became continuously inactive at the second check, had a 27% increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Researchers found that people with disabilities and chronic conditions who changed from being inactive to being moderately or vigorously active three to four times a week also benefitted, with people with a disability reducing their risk by 16%, and those with diabetes, raised blood pressure or cholesterol levels reducing their risk by between 4% and 7%.

Mr Kim said: “The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease.

“While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, our research suggests that it is necessary to be more physically active for cardiovascular health, and this is also true for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions.”

Kim K, Choi S, Hwang SE et al. Changes in exercise frequency and cardiovascular outcomes in older adults. European Heart Journal 8 November 2019; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehz768

Tags: Asia | Europe | Fitness | Heart Health

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