While regular moderate exercise appears to have only modest effects on overall longevity - five years or so at most, based on the epidemiological data - it does greatly improve long term health. The same might be said of avoiding weight gain, and thereby the consequences of excess visceral fat tissue. Studies suggest that some fraction of the decline of aging is self-inflicted, in the sense of being due to a lack of suitable exercise, gain of weight, smoking, and the like. While it isn't possible to avoid growing old, more of the unpleasant portions of aging can be evaded than is thought to be the case by the public at large. Being sedentary has real consequences when it comes to health and quality of life in later years.
New research has shown that older people with very low heart disease risks also have very little frailty, raising the possibility that frailty could be prevented. The largest study of its kind found that even small reductions in risk factors helped to reduce frailty, as well as dementia, chronic pain, and other disabling conditions of old age. Many perceive frailty to be an inevitable consequence of ageing - but the study found that severe frailty was 85% less likely in those with near ideal cardiovascular risk factors.
"This study indicates that frailty and other age-related diseases could be prevented and significantly reduced in older adults. Getting our heart risk factors under control could lead to much healthier old ages. Unfortunately, the current obesity epidemic is moving the older population in the wrong direction, however our study underlines how even small reductions in risk are worthwhile." The study analysed data from more than 421,000 people aged 60-69 in both GP medical records and in the UK Biobank research study. Participants were followed up over ten years.
The researchers analysed six factors that could impact on heart health. They looked at uncontrolled high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, plus being overweight, doing little physical activity and being a current smoker. "Individuals with untreated cardiovascular disease or other common chronic diseases appear to age faster and with more frailty. In the past, we viewed ageing and these common chronic diseases as being both inevitable and unrelated to each other. Now our growing body of scientific evidence on ageing shows what we have previously considered as inevitable might be prevented or delayed through earlier and better recognition and treatment of cardiac disease."