Late Life Exercise Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

There is plenty of evidence for moderate levels of exercise in late life to lower cardiovascular disease risk. When it comes to age-related disease, exercise remains better than most medicine for most people, a sad state of affairs that will hopefully change given technological progress in the years ahead. The study here offers yet another example of epidemiological data that supports the benefits of exercise in old age.

It's no secret that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a longer life, irrespective of gender and ethnicity, with the benefits accruing in tandem with the effort expended. But relatively few studies have looked exclusively at whether exercise in later life can help ward off heart disease and stroke in old age. To plug this knowledge gap, researchers drew on data from the Progetto Veneto Anziani (ProVA), a study of 3099 older Italians, age 65 and above.

Participants filled in questionnaires on their physical activity levels at each of the time points. Moderate physical activity included walking, bowls, and fishing, while vigorous physical activity included gardening, gym work-outs, cycling, dancing, and swimming. Those whose physical activity added up to 20 or more minutes a day were defined as active; those who clocked up less than this were defined as inactive. Men were more likely to be physically active than women.

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. Patterns of stable-high physical activity were associated with a significantly (52%) lower risk of cardiovascular disease among men compared with those with stable-low patterns. The greatest benefits seemed to occur at the age of 70. Risk was only marginally lower at the age of 75, and no lower at the age of 80-85, suggesting that improving physical activity earlier in old age might have the most impact, say the researchers.


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