20 minutes of daily exercise at age 70 can prevent major heart disease later
Exercising at an older age is always recommended so that older people can avoid getting diseases due to lack of physical movement. Now, research has suggested that twenty minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise in early old age (seventy to seventy-five) may better prevent major heart disease, including heart failure, in later life. old age (over eighty).
The research was published online in the journal “Heart.” The results reinforced the ‘better late than never’ maxim when it comes to exercise, but earlier in old age is better, a linked editorial concluded.
It’s no secret that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a longer life, regardless of gender and ethnicity, with the benefits accruing in tandem with effort expended.
But relatively few studies have looked exclusively at whether exercise later in life can help prevent heart disease and stroke in older adults.
To fill this knowledge gap, the researchers relied on data from Progetto Veneto Anziani (ProVA), a study of 3,099 elderly Italians (65 years and older).
Initial evaluations, including a detailed medical history, physical examination, scans and a battery of blood tests were carried out between 1995 and 1997, with two further evaluations four and seven years later.
At the start of the study, women were more likely than men to have more than four coexisting conditions, with a higher prevalence of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes were more common in men.
Participants completed questionnaires about their level of physical activity at each time point. Moderate physical activity included walking, bowling, and fishing, while vigorous physical activity included gardening, gym workouts, cycling, dancing, and swimming.
Those whose physical activity amounted to twenty minutes or more per day were defined as active; those who recorded less than that were defined as inactive. Men were more likely to be physically active than women.
Changes in physical activity patterns were defined as: stable-low (inactive-inactive); up-down (on-off); low-rise (inactive-active); and stable-high (active-active).
Other potentially important background information on household income, level of education, number of household members, smoking and alcohol was also collected.
The health of all participants was then tracked through a link to hospital discharge records and death certificate until the end of December 2018. The final analysis included 2754 participants with complete data, including 1398 were women (60%).
During the monitoring period, 1037 new diagnoses of heart disease, heart failure and stroke were made.
Increasing levels of physical activity as well as maintaining an active lifestyle over time were associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and death in both men and women.
The greatest risk reduction was observed for new cases of coronary heart disease and heart failure in old age. No significant association between physical activity and stroke was observed.
Most participants had stable active physical activity patterns over time. Steady-high physical activity patterns were associated with a significantly (52%) lower risk of cardiovascular disease in men compared to those with steady-low patterns.
The greatest benefits seemed to occur at the age of seventy. The risk was only slightly lower at age seventy-five, and not lower at age eighty-eight, suggesting that improving physical activity earlier in old age could have the most impact, the researchers said.
A J-shaped curve for exercise duration was also observed, with the greatest reduction in heart disease and heart failure associated with twenty to forty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. .
While the observed associations were strongest in men, the researchers pointed out that “women doing more physical activity had consistently lower incidence rates for almost all cardiovascular outcomes despite the fact that reduced risk did not reach statistical significance, but when considering overall mortality, the risks were reduced significantly.”
This was an observational study, and as such cannot establish causation. The researchers acknowledged that the study relied on participant recall, that physical activity levels were assessed subjectively, and that no data were available on midlife physical activity levels, which would have all could influence end-of-life cardiovascular risk profiles.
Nevertheless, they concluded, “These findings suggest that public health policies should aim to promote or initiate physical activity in mid and early late life, given likely greater efficacy in reducing cardiovascular risks.
“At least twenty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily should be recommended for greatest cardiovascular benefits.”
In a linked editorial, Drs Enrico Fabris and Gianfranco Sinagra of the University of Trieste, Italy, explained that physical activity helps improve arterial blood flow and can reduce its adherence and therefore the formation of blood clots.
“However, the detailed mechanisms by which [physical activity] can reduce the future risk of [cardiovascular disease] are still not fully understood,” they pointed out.
“The favorable effect of [physical activity] can be explained simply by its ability to slow down the process of atherosclerosis through better control of blood pressure, blood sugar and lipid profile.”
But the results showed that “movement is medicine” also at the end of life. Even a small amount of [physical activity] may confer beneficial effects in the elderly, but if undertaken sooner rather than later,” they concluded. (ANI)