Active seniors can lower heart attack risk by doing more, not less

May 5, 2014

Maintaining or boosting your physical activity after age 65 can improve your heart's electrical well-being and lower your risk of heart attack, according to a study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

In heart monitor recordings taken over five years, researchers found that people who walked more and faster and had more physically active leisure time had fewer irregular heart rhythms and greater than those who were less active.

Heart is differences in the time between one heartbeat and the next during everyday life.

"These small differences are influenced by the health of the heart and the nervous system that regulates the heart," said Luisa Soares-Miranda, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Faculty of Sport at the University of Porto in Portugal. "Early abnormalities in this system are picked up by changes in heart rate variability, and these changes predict the risk of future heart attacks and death."

The researchers evaluated 24-hour heart monitor recordings of 985 adults (average age 71 at baseline) participating in the community-based Cardiovascular Health Study, a large study of factors in people 65 and older.

During the study, they found:

  • The more people engaged in, the better their heart rate variability.
  • Participants who increased their walking distance or pace during the five years had better variability than those who reduced how much or how fast they walked.

"Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age," Soares-Miranda said. "Our results also suggest that these certain beneficial changes that occur may be reduced when physical activity is reduced."

The researchers calculated that the difference between the highest and lowest levels of physical activity would translate into an estimated 11 percent lower risk of attack or sudden cardiac death.

"So if you feel comfortable with your usual physical activity, do not slow down as you get older—try to walk an extra block or walk at a faster pace," Soares-Miranda said. "If you're not physically active, it is never too late to start."

Explore further: AHA statement: People with congenital heart disease need physical activity

Related Stories

AHA statement: People with congenital heart disease need physical activity

April 29, 2013
A new scientific statement from the American Heart Associations reminds physicians and people with congenital heart disease that regular physical activity is still important and should be promoted.

Exercising more, sitting less reduces heart failure risk in men

January 21, 2014
Sitting for long periods increases heart failure risk in men, even for those who exercise regularly, according to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Older sedentary adults reduced injury to heart through moderate physical activity

November 19, 2013
Moderate physical activity in sedentary older adults reduced the progression of injury to the heart, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.

Walking may cut stroke risk in older men

November 14, 2013
(HealthDay)—Older men may reduce their risk of stroke by taking a daily walk. And that walk doesn't have to be especially brisk, British researchers report.

Exercise protects against heart failure even at advanced ages

November 15, 2012
(HealthDay)—Among older adults, physical activity may protect against heart failure, as indicated by lower levels of N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and cardiac troponin T (cTnT), according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.