Poor physical function from age 65 linked to higher death risk

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In a new study from Université de Paris, researchers found increasing poor physical (motor) function from around age 65 is linked to an increased risk of death.

Signs of increasing decline, such as difficulty getting up from a chair or getting dressed, emerge up to 10 years before death.

It is well known that motor function, also commonly known as physical function or physical capability, declines with age, but rates of decline differ widely from person to person.

And while studies show that decline in cognitive (mental) skills can emerge up to 15 years before death, it’s not clear whether the same is true for physical abilities.

In the study, the team examined several measures of motor function for their associations with mortality over a 10 year period from around age 65.

Their findings are based on over 6,000 participants of the Whitehall II Study, which recruited participants aged 35-55 years in 1985-88 to look at the impact of social, behavioural, and biological factors on long term health.

The team found that poorer motor function was linked to an increased mortality risk of 22% for walking speed, 15% for grip strength and 14% for timed chair rises, while difficulties with activities of daily living were associated with a 30% increased risk.

Further analysis showed different patterns of change between participants who died and those who survived.

For example, participants who died had poorer chair rise times than survivors up to 10 years before death, poorer self-reported functioning up to seven years before death, and more difficulties with activities of daily living up to four years before death.

The team says the aging of populations worldwide makes understanding of the functional status of older adults and changes in functioning with age important.

These results suggest that strategies to reduce accelerated decline should start before old age and that early detection of changes in motor function might offer opportunities for prevention and targeted interventions.

If you care about exercise, please read studies about this exercise can relieve leg pain in people with peripheral artery disease and findings of this simple exercise may lower blood pressure more effectively.

For more information about exercise and your health, please see recent studies about this exercise method may boost health in people with type 2 diabetes and results showing that instant death from heart attack common in people who do not exercise.

The study is published in The BMJ. One author of the study is Benjamin Landré.

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