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Walking Slow Increases Cardiovascular Risk


Walking slow not only takes you longer to reach your destination, it also raises your risk of cardiovascular death. French researchers found this to be true among well functioning adults who were age 65 or older.

Clinicians need reliable ways to assess the functional status and motor abilities of older people, and walking speed has been suggested as a possible important sign. Previous studies have shown that walking slow can predict such events as falls, disability, and being admitted to the hospital, as well as an increased risk of all causes of death. Researchers did not know, however, whether specific causes of death could account for this increase in mortality.

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In the current study, investigators evaluated 3,208 men and women ages 65 to 85 and followed them for an average of 5.1 years to study the relationship between walking slow and the risk of death. When the potential participants were interviewed at baseline, the researchers excluded anyone who had conditions that were strongly associated with walking slow, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, hip fracture in the previous two years, disabling stroke, and coronary artery disease.

All the testing for walking speed was conducted at a study center. When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that participants in the lowest third of walking speed had a 44 percent increased risk of death compared with adults in the upper third. When they analyzed the data for specific causes of death, adults in the lowest third of walking speed had about a threefold increased risk of cardiovascular death. This increased risk was seen in both sexes, in younger and in older participants, and in those with low or usual physical activity levels.

The results of this study show a strong association between walking slow and an increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular event (e.g., stroke, heart failure, heart attack) when compared with older adults who walk faster. They also show that walking speed, which can be assessed easily by clinicians, is a good and simple measure of functional status and risk of cardiovascular death.

Dumurgier J et al. British Medical Journal 2009; 33l:b4460