Two Measures of Heart Health May Hint at Seniors' Independence

Researchers eye earlier detection of decline

MONDAY, Aug. 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with a higher resting heart rate and lower heart rate variability are less able to care for themselves, a new study finds.

Researchers examined data on more than 5,800 people, aged 70 to 82, who had risk factors for heart disease.

The investigators compared resting heart rate and heart rate variability -- the beat-to-beat variation in heart rate -- 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 nearly 80 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. The results were published Aug. 31 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Higher resting heart rate and lower heart rate variability were associated with worse functional performance at baseline and with higher risk of future functional decline in older adults at high cardiovascular risk," wrote Dr. Behnam Sabayan of the department of gerontology and geriatrics at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues.

"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," the researchers noted 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."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers tips on healthy aging.

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal, news release, Aug. 31, 2015
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