Older people who have a very low heart disease risk are also found to have little frailty, meaning that frailty could be prevented, new research suggests.
Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the largest study of its kind found that the smallest reductions in risk factors for heart disease helped reduce fratility, as well as dementia, chronic pain and other conditions associated with old age.
Data of over 400,000 people aged 60-69 in both GP medical records and the UK Biobank research study were analysed; then over ten years the participants were followed up.
Are frailty and ageing linked?
The perception of frailty is that it’s inevitable in the ageing process; however, it was reported by the MRC that the study from the University of Exeter found that severe frailty was 85% less likely in those with near ideal cardiovascular risk factors.
It was also found that individuals with fewer heart disease risk factors were at much less risk of having other conditions unrelated to the heart, including:
- Chronic pain;
- Fractures; and
The researchers analysed six factors that could impact on heart health and looked at uncontrolled high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, as well as being overweight, doing little physical activity and being a current smoker.
Heart risk factors under control
“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,” said Dr Joao Delgado, joint lead author of the study.
“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.”
“The importance of a healthy lifestyle”
Dr Ivan Pavlov, programme manager for systems medicine at the MRC, added: “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.”