What is Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease in Later Life?
A British report on Age and Aging recently looked at four lifestyle factors that affected the overall risk of senior women suffering disablement or disease in the following seven years. The study focused on women in their 60s and 70s and looked at their current lifestyle in terms of smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise. They found that those embracing a healthier, more active lifestyle considerably lowered their risk of cardio disease and other disabling conditions.
The study was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and studied the results of surveys completed by over 2,500 women between the ages of 60 and 79. Seven years later the women reported back on their health in terms of severe disabling health conditions such as arthritis, mobility and heart disease. The results showed that in some cases it's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle and benefit from it.
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Exercise and Heart Disease
The study showed that women who never exercised were twice as likely to suffer from arthritis as their more active peers. They also had twice the likelihood of having problems walking, and they were more likely to suffer from heart disease. It supports the widely held belief among health professionals that the importance of regular exercise continues to be significant, particularly as we age.
Regular exercise has been found to improve circulation, lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Dr. Watts, commenting on the results of the study said, "We know from other work that exercise is the most proven intervention to prevent not only physical decline, but also the cognitive decline so often associated with aging".
Smoking and Cardio Risk
Although the risks of developing cancer is widely known to be higher for smokers, the study showed that both current smokers and ex-smokers had a much higher risk of developing heart disease than non-smokers.
Eating Fruit and Drinking Alcohol
The study was not able to find any positive impact on disability from eating fruit, but there was a slight benefit from moderate alcohol consumption. However, other studies on seniors with cardiovascular disease have found that a heart-healthy, low-fat diet could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 35%. Such a diet also significantly lowered the risk of recurrent cardio incidents.
Conclusions about Lifestyle and Cardio Disease
Taken overall, senior women in the study who were non-smokers, exercised, and drank in moderation were found to have a 17% lower overall risk of developing disability in later life.
What the study did not show was whether the healthy habits were the result of a lifelong habit of a healthy active lifestyle, or whether the same results could be expected for those who started exercising in later life. However all the researchers agreed that healthy lifestyle factors are important in the long-term. There are no downsides to being active, non-smoking and living a healthy lifestyle at any stage in life.
Dr. Pankratz, Assistant Professor of Geriatrics at the University of Wisconsin, concluded that it is never too late to make a change for the better. Age should not deter people from adopting new habits even in later life. Eating healthily, taking natural supplements, and exercising are likely to have a positive effect on mental health, mobility and heart health.
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