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Mar 10, 2015

Frailty Increases Risk of Heart Disease in Older Adults

Addressing early signs of frailty could help ward off heart conditions later in life.

According to a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, addressing early signs of frailty could help lower heart disease risk in older adults.

Conducted in Northern Italy, this study included more than 1,500 men and women over 65 who were free of heart disease and any other disabilities at the beginning of the study. Researchers assessed both the mental and physical health of participants using surveys and physical examinations at the start of the study and then followed subjects for more than four years for various heart outcomes, such as heart disease, heart failure and stroke.

After analysis, researchers found that early signs of frailty—including unintentional weight loss, low physical activity level, weakness, exhaustion and slow walking speed—were associated with increased heart risks. Specifically, low levels of physical activity, exhaustion and slow walking speed were significantly associated with increased risk for heart disease, even after taking into account other cardiovascular risk factors.

The good news, as authors point out, is that the early warning signs of frailty are potentially reversible. It’s well established that frailty is common among patients with or at risk for heart disease and is associated with poorer outcomes compared to healthy, older adults. However, authors hope that by identifying the warning signs of frailty associated with increased heart risks, it’s possible to intervene and help older adults increase their strength to hopefully ward off heart conditions later in life.

Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Does age impact risk for heart disease?
  • Yes, there are certain risk factors associated with heart disease that we can’t control, including age. As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. It’s especially important to address any risk factors that you can control, such as high blood pressure or lack of physical activity, in order to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.

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