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Resting Heart Rate HR Variability May Help ID Functional Disability

Researchers eye earlier detection of decline

TUESDAY, Sept. 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with a higher resting heart rate and lower heart rate variability are less able to care for themselves, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Researchers examined data on 5,804 people, aged 70 to 82, who had risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The investigators compared resting heart rate and heart rate variability with the ability to perform basic daily activities such as grooming, walking, and using the toilet. They also looked at more complicated tasks such as doing housework, shopping, and taking medicines as prescribed.

Over an average follow-up of three years, seniors with the highest resting heart rate had a 79 percent increased risk of decline in their ability to do basic daily activities, and a 35 percent increased risk of decline in their ability to do more complicated daily tasks. Those with the lowest heart rate variability had a 25 percent increased risk of decline in both basic and more complicated daily tasks, according to the study.

"Because functional disability develops gradually, it is important to identify it early and take steps to delay decline, such as exercise, medication, and other interventions," study author Behnam Sabayan, M.D., Ph.D., of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release. "This is especially important with an aging population, which could mean rising numbers of people who have problems with daily functioning."

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