For older adults, keeping your heart healthy may protect against disability

October 26, 2017, American Geriatrics Society

A healthy heart is important to the well-being of older adults. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines "ideal cardiovascular health" based on four health behaviors (current smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and healthy diet and three health factors (total cholesterol, blood pressure), and fasting blood glucose level).

Recently, a team of researchers studied older Latin Americans to examine the relationship between the AHA guidelines and disability. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association.

The relationship is an important one to consider, since heart disease (also known as "") can lead to several disabling problems for . In fact, heart attacks and strokes are the first and third most common causes of disability in the US. The effect of a stroke on the brain is a leading cause of disability. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of dementia and, for older adults, the disease also can make it difficult to function in daily life.

In their study, the researchers used information from the Chilean National Health Survey conducted between 2009-2010. 460 Chilean adults all over age 65 participated in the study.

The researchers measured AHA-identified heart-healthy behaviors:

  • Maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 25. (BMI is a ratio between your weight and height.)
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week.
  • Don't smoke tobacco.
  • Eat a with plenty of fruits and vegetables and few to no processed or fast foods.

The researchers also measured these risk factor measurements of "ideal cardiovascular health":

  • Blood pressure of 120/80
  • Total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL

In their study, the researchers created three different levels of health based on the participants' cardiovascular-healthy behaviors and heart :

  • People in the healthiest level had 5 to 7 of the behaviors/measurements.
  • People in the middle level had 3 to 4 healthy behaviors/measurements.
  • People in the lowest (most unhealthy) level had 0 to 2 behaviors/measurements.

The researchers compared the behaviors/measurements with disability among the participants. They learned that having an ideal level of reduced the chances for being disabled for older adults, even for those who had a history of heart disease or arthritis.

The researchers also found that Chilean women tended to be less active and more disabled than Chilean men.

Compared to people with an unhealthy level of behaviors/measurements, people in the two healthier groups had a lower risk for disability.

Finally, people who had an ideal BMI had lower disability. The researchers noted that obesity may quicken age-related declines in functional ability, and poses a threat to independence as we age. The authors suggest that public policies might promote ideal health behaviors early in life, helping people maintain their health into older adulthood.

Explore further: Maintaining healthy weight helps keep blood pressure low through life

More information: Antonio García-Hermoso et al, Relationship Between Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Disability in Older Adults: The Chilean National Health Survey (2009-10), Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2017). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15139

Related Stories

Maintaining healthy weight helps keep blood pressure low through life

September 15, 2017
New research shows maintaining a healthy weight throughout life – more so than four other health behaviors studied – is important to help keep blood pressure in check, according to research presented today at the American ...

African-Americans with healthier lifestyles had lower risk of high blood pressure

June 26, 2017
Among African Americans, small health improvements were associated with lower risk of developing high blood pressure, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension. African Americans who ...

Children score low on cardiovascular health measures

August 11, 2016
Proactive strategies for promoting good heart health should begin at birth, yet most American children do not meet the American Heart Association's definition of ideal childhood cardiovascular health, according to a new scientific ...

Which single behavior best prevents high blood pressure?

September 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—You probably already know that certain healthy lifestyle behaviors can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, but is any one behavior more important than the others?

Young heart health linked to better overall health in later years

November 16, 2014
Maintaining a healthy heart while young may help prevent future disease and disability, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

Physical activity reduces heart disease deaths for older adults

January 5, 2017
Being physically inactive—sitting for long periods of time—can be so harmful to your health that experts sometimes call it "sitting disease." In fact, worldwide, physical inactivity is estimated to cause some 3.2 million ...

Recommended for you

Gout could increase heart disease risk

August 17, 2018
Having a type of inflammatory arthritis called gout may worsen heart-related outcomes for people being treated for coronary artery disease, according to new research.

Stroke patients treated at a teaching hospital are less likely to be readmitted

August 17, 2018
Stroke patients appear to receive better care at teaching hospitals with less of a chance of landing back in a hospital during the early stages of recovery, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science ...

Cardiovascular disease related to type 2 diabetes can be reduced significantly

August 16, 2018
Properly composed treatment and refraining from cigarette consumption can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease resulting from type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the New England Journal of ...

Genomic autopsy can help solve unexplained cardiac death

August 15, 2018
Molecular autopsies can reveal genetic risk factors in young people who unexpectedly die, but proper interpretation of the results can be challenging, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

Neonatal pig hearts can heal from heart attack

August 15, 2018
While pigs still cannot fly, researchers have discovered that the hearts of newborn piglets do have one remarkable ability. They can almost completely heal themselves after experimental heart attacks.

Fifty percent of cardiovascular patients suffer from multiple diseases

August 15, 2018
New research led by The University of Western Australia has revealed that one in two patients admitted to hospital with a cardiovascular disease is suffering from multiple chronic medical conditions which required complex ...

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.