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Healthy Heart Can Protect Older Adults from Disability

Healthy Heart Can Protect Older Adults from Disability

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  • Older adults who have a healthy heart are at a lower risk of developing disability
  • Maintaining an ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) lowers the risk of disability
  • Regular physical activity reduces the chance of being disabled

A healthy heart is essential for the overall well-being in old age. Having a healthy heart reduces the risk of disability in the elderly, reveals a new study.

The American Heart Association (AHA) defines "ideal cardiovascular health" based on four health behaviors and three health factors. The four health behaviors are current smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and healthy diet. The three health factors are blood pressure, total cholesterol and fasting blood glucose level.


Healthy Heart Can Protect Older Adults from Disability

Ideal Cardiovascular Health

The research team studied older Latin Americans to examine the relationship between the AHA guidelines and disability. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association.

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease can lead to several disabling problems in older adults, and hence, it is essential to consider this relationship.

In the U.S, heart attacks and strokes are the first and third most common causes of disability. The leading cause of disability is the effect of a stroke on the brain.

Cardiovascular disease, which is the second leading cause of dementia can make life difficult for older adults.

In this study, the research team used information from the Chilean National Health Survey, which was conducted between 2009 and 2010. People who participated in the study were 460 Chilean older adults who were above 65 years of age.

The AHA-identified heart-healthy behaviors in the elderly were measured by the research team. The AHA-identified heart-healthy behaviors are as follows:
  • To maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 25
  • To do physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day
  • To avoid smoking tobacco
  • To consume a healthy diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables, and few to no processed or fast foods
The risk factor measurements of "ideal cardiovascular health" were also measured:
  • Blood pressure - 120/80 mm Hg
  • Total cholesterol - less than 200 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood sugar - less than 100 mg/dL
In this study, three different levels of health were created based on the participants' cardiovascular-healthy behaviors and heart health factors:
  • Healthiest level - People had 5 to 7 of the behaviors or measurements
  • Middle level - People had 3 to 4 healthy behaviors or measurements
  • Lowest (most unhealthy) level - People had 0 to 2 behaviors or measurements
Later, the behaviors or measurements were compared with disability among the participants by the research team.

Link Between Heart Health and Disability

The results showed that people who had an ideal level of physical activity had reduced chances of being disabled, even in those people who had a history of heart disease or arthritis.

The results also showed that Chilean women were less active and were more disabled when compared to Chilean men.

People in the two healthier groups were found to be at a lower risk for disability than those who were in the unhealthy level of behaviors or measurements. Finally, people who had an ideal BMI were also at lower risk of disability.

The research team observed that obesity could lead to age-related problems in functional ability, and can pose a threat to live independently.

The research team suggests that public policies can promote ideal health behaviors early in life and help people maintain their health into older adulthood.

  1. Antonio García-Hermoso, Robinson Ramírez-Vélez, Rodrigo Ramirez-Campillo, and Mikel Izquierdo P. Relationship Between Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Disability in Older Adults: The Chilean National Health Survey (2009-10). Journal of the American Geriatrics Association (2017). DOI:10.1111/jgs.15139

Source: Medindia

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