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Inactivity in the elderly increases their cardiovascular risk by 14%

Read time: 1 mins
Last updated:22nd Nov 2017
Published:22nd Nov 2017
Source: Pharmawand

An 18-year study monitoring cardiovascular disease events in adults from the ages of 39 to 79 has revealed that the elderly could reduce their cardiovascular risk by 14% by partaking in modest exercise.

A study into the physical activity of adults has been published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The research incorporated 24,502 adults recruited between 1993 and 1997 who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) Norfolk cohort (a prospective population study that is part of the ten-country collaboration EPIC study).

The induction involved a questionnaire on levels of physical activity undertaken by the participants, blood samples and a physical examination. Hospitalisation or death from cardiovascular events (coronary heart disease or stroke), monitored until 2015, were identified by linking the participant’s unique National Health Service number with the East Norfolk Health Authority (ENCORE) database.

Physical activity levels and time to cardiovascular events were investigated in three age categories: less than 55, 55 to 65 (middle-aged), and over 65 years of age (elderly). By the end of the study there were 5,240 cardiovascular disease events.

The study reveals that in elderly participants, hazard ratios for cardiovascular events were:

  • Moderately inactive 0.86
  • Moderately active 0.87
  • Active 0.88

(In those aged 55–65 and less than 55 years, the associations were directionally similar, but not statistically significant)

We know that regular physical activity has major health benefits. Healthy adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.1 These recommendations are based primarily on research in middle-aged adults and we wanted to know whether regular physical activity yields comparable cardiovascular health benefits in elderly people. Elderly people who were moderately inactive had a 14% reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who were completely inactive. This suggests that even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health. Elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening, and housework.

First author Dr Sangeeta Lachman, cardiologist at the Academic Medical Centre, the Netherlands.


1. 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. European Heart Journal. 2016;37:2315–2381 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehw106

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