Improving heart health could prevent frailty in old age, finds a study.
The largest study of its kind, led by the University of Exeter, found that even small reductions in risk factors helped to reduce frailty, as well as dementia, chronic pain, and other disabling conditions of old age.
Many perceive frailty to be an inevitable consequence of ageing - but the study found that severe frailty was 85 percent less likely in those with near ideal cardiovascular risk factors.
It also found that those with fewer heart disease risk factors were much less likely to have other conditions unrelated to the heart - including chronic pain, incontinence, falls, fractures, and dementia.
Dr Joao Delgado, the joint lead author of the study, said: "This study indicates that frailty and other age-related diseases could be prevented and significantly reduced in older adults. Getting our heart risk factors under control could lead to much healthier old ages. Unfortunately, the current obesity epidemic is moving the older population in the wrong direction, however, our study underlines how even small reductions in risk are worthwhile."
The study analysed data from more than 421,000 people aged 60-69.
The researchers analysed six factors that could impact on heart health. They looked at uncontrolled high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, plus being overweight, doing little physical activity and being a current smoker.
"These findings are relevant to us all because they re-emphasise the importance of a healthy lifestyle for better quality of life in old age. These new results also show that age-related conditions may share common risk factors or mechanisms with cardiovascular diseases. We're living longer so it's crucial that we recognise this by taking care of our bodies and monitoring our risk for disease even earlier in life," said Dr Ivan Pavlov.
The study has been published in the Journal of Gerontology.