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GPs should encourage elderly to become physically active, says study

GPs should be advising the elderly to engage in physical activity to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,a study has concluded.

This is the recommendation from a study which found that even a minimal amount of physical activity is better for preventing cardiovascular disease than none at all.

The study, conducted by researchers from Cambridge and Amsterdam, looked at just over 24,000 patients aged between 39 and 79, recording the number of cardiovascular events over an average of 18 years of follow up per person.

They found that in patients aged 65 or over who were moderately inactive, the risk of cardiovascular disease fell significantly by 14% compared to those who were completely inactive.

Risk also fell by 13% and 12% in elderly patients who were moderately active and active respectively.

The researchers suggest that the significant decrease in risk for moderately inactive patients shows that even small amounts of physical activity improve heart health in the elderly.

They said in the paper: ‘Our findings support current international guidelines and recommendations on physical activity including middle-aged and elderly people.

‘In all age groups, even a little engagement in physical activity of moderate inactive level and not necessarily physical activity of vigorous level was associated with a substantially lower CVD risk compared to no physical activity at all; however, when adjusted for socioeconomic status this is only observed in elderly people.’

Dr Sangeeta Lachman of the Amsterdam Medical Centre, lead author, said: ‘Elderly people who were moderately inactive had a 14% reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who were completely inactive.

‘Elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening, and housework.

‘Given our aging population and the impact of cardiovascular disease on society, a broader array of public health programmes are needed to help elderly people engage in any physical activity of any level and avoid being completely sedentary.’

Eur. J. Prev. Cardiol 2017; available online 21 November


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