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[MOVING, HEART-FELT] 20 minutes/day of exercise at 70 may curb heart disease in later life

Twenty minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous exercise in early old age (70-75) may stave off major heart disease, including heart failure, in late old age (80+), a recent study suggests. The findings reinforce the maxim of “better late than never” when it comes to exercise, but earlier on in older age is better still, conclude the authors of an accompanying editorial.

The researchers analyzed data on 2,754 Italians ages 65 and older (60%, women). Initial assessments, including a detailed medical history, physical examination, scans, and a battery of blood tests were carried out between 1995 and 1997, with two further assessments four and seven years later.

At the start of the study, women were more likely than men to have more than four coexisting conditions, with a higher prevalence of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic kidney disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes were more common among the men.

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.

During the monitoring period, 1,037 new diagnoses of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke occurred.

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.

The largest reduction in risk was observed for new cases of coronary heart disease and heart failure in late old age. No significant association between physical activity and stroke was observed.

Most of the participants had stable active physical activity patterns over time., the researchers note. 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 physical activity.

The greatest benefits seemed to occur at the age of 70. Risk was only marginally lower at age 75, and no lower at ages 80-85, suggesting that improving physical activity earlier in old age might have the most impact, say the researchers.

To read the study, published in the journal Heart, click here

To read the editorial, click here


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