Strong Heart Key to Good
Health in Old Age from Reuters Health - SOURCE:
Archives of Internal Medicine
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Want to enjoy
good health in your golden years? Take good care of your heart, according to
the findings of a new study.
Researchers report that healthy elderly
people who had low risk factors for cardiovascular disease continued to enjoy
good health longer than people with more risk factors.
"Our study is a picture of what the future
of older people could be like--the ideal golden years--if they keep heart
disease risk factors in check," the study's lead author Dr. Anne B. Newman of
the University of Pittsburgh said in a press release.
"Older healthy people can maintain
better-than-average quality of life, with lower rates of physical and cognitive
decline, when they refrain from smoking, lower their blood lipids, watch blood
pressure and avoid obesity through diet and exercise," Newman added.
The study included nearly 3,000 men and
women who were at least 65 years old. At the start of the study, all of the
participants had aged "successfully," meaning that they maintained good mental
and physical functioning and did not have cardiovascular disease, cancer or
chronic lung disease.
Researchers followed the participants for
eight years to see if they continued to age successfully.
Nearly half of the participants, 48
percent, were still aging successfully at the end of the study, Newmans team
reports in the October 27th issue of the journal Archives of Internal
Not surprisingly, a person's age at the
start of the study had an important influence on the odds of aging
successfully. People 85 or older enjoyed only about one fourth the number of
healthy years as did people who were 65 to 69 at the start of the study
But within each age group, the odds of
aging successfully depended on other factors, including the presence of
"subclinical" cardiovascular disease, which does not cause symptoms and can
only be detected with diagnostic tests.
Compared with people with subclinical
cardiovascular disease, people without any signs of heart disease continued to
enjoy good health for an average of 5 to 6 years longer.
Several risk factors for heart disease,
including diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and lack of exercise, were
also related to the odds of aging successfully. This connection is important,
according to the researchers, since these risk factors can be modified.
Noting that current efforts to reduce
cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood
pressure and obesity, fall short of goals, Newman and her colleagues conclude
that "prevention of cardiovascular disease should be a major priority for the
achievement of successful aging."