Twenty minutes of activity at 70 helps the heart at 85

Written by | 18 Feb 2022 | Internal Medicine

Daily moderate to vigorous physical activity of at least 20 minutes undertaken by persons in early old age (70-75 years) might be the best way to avoid, in late old age (80-plus years), major heart disease.

Researchers reported this finding on February 14,2020 in the BMJ journal Heart.

“These results suggest that public health policies should be targeted at promoting or beginning physical activity in mid- and early late life, given a probable greater effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risks,” the authors said. “At least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day should be recommended to achieve the greatest cardiovascular benefits.”

As background, they noted that the benefits of exercise for the cardiovascular system have been established by research. “But it is unclear whether physical activity trajectories in late life are associated with different risks of cardiovascular diseases,” they said.

The researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of data from the Progetto Veneto Anziani (ProVA), a study enrolling 3,099 older Italians (65 and above) with baseline assessment in 1995–1997 and follow-up visits at 4 and 7 years.

Surveillance was extended to 2018 using hospital and mortality records.

The investigators identified prevalent and incident cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke) through clinical examinations, questionnaires or hospital records.

Subjects completed questionnaires about physical activity levels at each of the clinical visits. Moderate physical activity included walking, bowling, and fishing. Vigorous physical activity included gardening, gym work-outs, cycling, dancing, and swimming.

Subjects who engaged in physical activity of up to 20 or more minutes a day were defined as active. Subjects with less physically active time were defined as inactive.

The investigators denoted physical activity patterns as stable-low (inactive-inactive), high-decreasing (active-inactive), low-increasing (inactive-active) and stable-high (active-active).

The final analysis included 2,754 subjects with complete data, and 1,398 were women (60%).

During the monitoring, there were 1,037 new diagnoses of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.

The investigators reported that increased physical activity and an active lifestyle over time associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and death among both men and women.

They reported that the largest reduction in risk reduction was for new cases of coronary heart disease and heart failure in late old age. They reported no significant association between physical activity and stroke.

Consistent stable-high physical activity among men was associated with a significantly (52%) lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with men with stable-low patterns.

The greatest benefit appeared among subjects who had stable-high physical activity by the age of 70. Risk was only marginally lower for those initiating stable-high physical activity at the age of 75, and no lower at the age of 80-85. This finding indicates that that improving physical activity earlier in old age could have the greatest prophylactic effect.

The authors concluded, “Increasingly active trajectories of physical activity were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality. Promoting

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