Large Study of Older Adults Shows People Over 65 Benefit By Staying Active Let’s Move, People

Inactivity after the age of 65 increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes according to new research from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

The study looked at walking speed, leg strength and balance to measure physical performance.

Known as the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), the study measures the ability to perform both basic and instrumental activities of daily living.

“Physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease,” said senior author of the study Dr. Kunihiro Matsushita, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology.

SPPB, analyzing data from 5,570 adults aged 75 on average, characterized people into three groups based on their test scores: low, intermediate and high.

After examining the association of SPPB scores with future heart attack, stroke, and heart failure—adjusting for major cardiovascular disease risk factors—the study found that 13 percent had low, 30% had intermediate, and 57% had high physical health scores.

During the eight years of the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, 386 participants were diagnosed with a heart attack, 251 had a stroke, and there were 529 heart failure cases.

Those with low physical function scores were 47 percent more likely to experience at least one cardiovascular disease event.

The physical function score improved the risk prediction of cardiovascular disease outcomes beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

“Older adults are at higher risk for falls and disability,” said Xiao Hu, lead author, and Research Data Coordinator. “The assessment of physical function may also inform the risk of these concerning conditions in older adults.”

Falls in older adults are associated with high injury rates, high medical care costs, and significant impact on quality of life.