Blog | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Fitness in mid-life means fewer diseases in old age

Fitness in midlife appears to be associated with a lower risk of common chronic health conditions later in life in men and women older than 65 years and enrolled in Medicare, a study found.

Researchers linked Medicare claims with participant data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, which looked at 14,726 healthy men and 3,944 healthy women from 1970 to 2009 for eight chronic conditions: congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer's, and colon or lung cancer.

Results appeared online at Archives of Internal Medicine.

With a median follow-up of 26 years, the highest level of midlife fitness (quintile 5) was associated with a lower incidence of chronic conditions compared with the lowest midlife fitness (quintile 1) in men 15.6 vs. 28.2 per 100 person-years and in women 11.4 vs. 20.1 per 100 person years, according to the study results. Age- and sex-specific quintiles of fitness were based on treadmill times.

Researchers suggest a moderate increase in fitness may mean a reduction in chronic conditions as people age. For example, a 1- to 2 metabolic equivalent improvement in fitness resulting in promotion from the first to the second fitness quintile at age 50 years was associated with a 20 percent reduction in the incidence of chronic diseases at ages 65 and older.

Among those participants who died, researchers note that higher midlife fitness appeared to be more strongly associated with a delay in the development of chronic conditions than with survival.

"Compared with participants with lower midlife fitness, those with higher midlife fitness appeared to spend a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden," of chronic diseases, the authors concluded.