<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Improving Heart Health Could Prevent Frailty in Old Age

5 June 2018

Improving Heart Health Could Prevent Frailty in Old Age

New research, funded by the MRC, found 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.

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 10 years.

Many people perceive frailty to be an inevitable consequence of ageing, but the University of Exeter study found that severe frailty was 85% less likely in those with near ideal cardiovascular risk factors.

It also found that those with fewer heart disease risk factors were much less likely to have other conditions unrelated to the heart, including chronic pain, incontinence, falls, fractures, and dementia.

The full findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Dr João Delgado, joint lead author of the study, said: “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.”

Dr Ivan Pavlov, Programme Manager for Systems Medicine at the MRC, said: “These findings are relevant to us all because they re-emphasise the importance of a healthy lifestyle for better quality of life in old age. These new results also show that age-related conditions may share common risk factors or mechanisms with cardiovascular diseases. We’re living longer so it’s crucial that we recognise this by taking care of our bodies and monitoring our risk for disease even earlier in life.”

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.

The international research team involved the UConn Center on Aging at UConn Health in Connecticut, USA, and the National Institute on Aging, USA.

The project was funded by the MRC and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).The research team included international collaboration with scientists at the UConn Center on Aging at UConn Health in Connecticut, USA, and the National Institute on Aging.
It is the first largescale study to show that older people with near-ideal cardiovascular risk factor profiles have better outcomes on a number of factors that are not directly linked to heart-disease.