Larry Hand

August 27, 2016

ROME, ITALY — Individuals who are 65 years old and older can help to reduce their risk of cardiovascular death and heart attack by maintaining or beginning moderate physical activity, according to new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2016 Congress[1].

"If you practice moderate exercise, you're bracing for reducing heart events by 31%," Dr Riitta Liisa Antikainen (University of Oulu, Finland) said during a news conference on August 27, 2016. The potential reduction is greater than 50% for cardiovascular death, she said.

Leisure exercise seems to have cardiovascular benefits widely across different groups. Earlier this year, researchers led by Dr Andrea K Chomistek (Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health) published a study showing that moderate physical activity led to lower risk of incident coronary heart disease (CHD) in younger women aged 20 to 44. Brisk walking for 2.5 or more hours per week resulted in a 35% risk reduction for CHD compared with women who reported no walking.

Dr Riitta Liisa Antikainen

Antikainen and colleagues conducted a study of almost 2500 adults 65 to 74 years old enrolled in the National FINRISK Study between 1997 and 2007. They assessed the association between leisure-time physical activity and cardiovascular disease risk and mortality by administering questionnaires on health behaviors as well as collecting clinical measurements such as blood pressure and weight and height, plus lab measurements including cholesterol.

Of 2456 men and women enrolled, 197 died from CVD causes and 416 experienced a first CVD event during a mean follow-up of 11.8 years.

The researchers classified low physical activity as reading, watching television, or doing housework; moderate physical activity as walking, cycling, or other light exercise; and high physical activity as recreational sports or intense training.

They found that maintaining moderate physical activity reduced the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event by more than 30% and cardiovascular death by more than 50%. Higher physical activity levels led to higher reductions, the researcher said.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland, and supported by a grant from the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research. The authors report no relevant financial interests.

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