High blood pressure linked to steeper decline in walking speeds in seniors

Mar 16, 2011

Researchers have found a link between high blood pressure and a greater drop in average walking speeds in older adults, according to results from a new National Institutes of Health-funded study. The drop seems to occur even in study participants whose high blood pressure is successfully treated. Drastic changes in walking speed can impact a senior’s ability to remain independent and indicate possible health problems.

The study examined the role of brain, heart, and kidney function in changes in seniors' speeds over 14 years. Participating seniors, with an average age of 76 at the start of the study, who had , saw their average walking speeds decline 0.2 miles per hour more than seniors who did not have high blood pressure. The study will appear in the March edition of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

"The findings from this study suggest an additional reason to stress prevention of high blood pressure," said Susan B. Shurin, M.D., acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the NIH. "Even with medications to treat high blood pressure in , it appears that the condition might be linked to a serious decline in average walking speed. As the mobility of seniors declines, there is an increased risk for falls."

About one-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

The University of Pittsburgh's Caterina Rosano, M.D., led the research as part of the Cardiovascular Health Study, which the NHLBI began funding in 1989 to help understand risk factors for cardiovascular disease in older adults.

Of the 643 participants in Rosano's study, 350 did not have high blood pressure, while 293 had undiagnosed hypertension or were taking medication for the condition. The study's hypertension participants were split into three groups:

  • Those who were undiagnosed before the study began

  • Those who were diagnosed and were able to control the condition

  • Those who were diagnosed and were unable to control the condition
The researchers measured how long it took participants to walk a 15-foot course, starting from a standing position. At the start of the study, the average walking speed was 2.2 mph. While everyone who participated in the follow-up period walked slower, speeds decreased more steeply among all hypertension groups by about 10 percent.

"An acceptable walking speed is important for seniors to maintain their independence," Rosano explained. "For , a declining walking speed can be an indicator of other health problems and can help predict who will develop dementia or disabilities."

Rosano said further study is needed to better understand the physical link between high blood pressure and the steep decline in walking speeds. Researchers thought that brain, kidney, or heart problems might account for the slowing, but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of study participants showed no visible problems with blood vessels in the brain, and kidney and heart function also appeared normal.

Future studies could use more advanced brain imaging equipment, which may reveal damage too small for MRI scans to detect, according to the study authors.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

Provided by National Institutes of Health

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New risk factors discovered for Alzheimer's disease

Jul 06, 2007

A recent study in Journal of Neuroimaging suggests that cognitively normal adults exhibiting atrophy of their temporal lobe or damage to blood vessels in the brain are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Older ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

petrossa
not rated yet Mar 16, 2011
Correct me if i'm wrong but doesn't the study show there's no difference in the results between treated and untreated HBP persons?

So why stress the need for prevention?

Furthermore i pose that most bloodpressure medication has a negative effect on physical stamina.

Betablockers really take the oomph out of you.

Seems like a seriously contaminated study with no other purpose then to push forward the sale of bloodpressure medication.

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.