50+ health * Healthy living

Slow old people more likely to die of heart disease

Zone default image Three times more likely than those who walk fast

Older people who walk slowly are three times more likely to die from heart disease than those who walk fast, a new study has found.

They are also 44% more likely to die compared with the fastest walkers.

Past research has shown that the speed a person walks at may indicate underlying health problems.

In this study, French researchers wanted to discover the relationship between walking speed and the risk of death in older people as well as the actual cause.

The researchers measured the walking speeds of 3,208 men and women between the ages of 65 and 85. All participants then underwent health checks for the next five years.

The results, published in this week's British Medical Journal, showed that a third of the people who walked at the lowest walking speeds at the start of the study were 44% more likely to die compared with the third of those who walked the fastest.

In addition, the people in the lowest third of walking speeds were three times more likely to die from heart problems compared with those who walked faster.

The results were the same for both men and women, in younger and older participants and in people with low or average levels of physical activity.

No relationship between walking speed and cancer was found.

The researchers from the University Pierre and Marie Curie said the results highlight the importance of keeping active in older age.

They concluded: “These findings show that assessment of motor performances in older people using simple measures such as walking speed can be performed easily and that the role of fitness in preserving life and function in older age is important.”

An accompanying editorial in the BMJ suggested that walking speed may also help predict future frailty in older people.

This article was published on Thu 12 November 2009

Image © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

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